PANAMA CITY – A man died from hantavirus in the central province of Veraguas, becoming the first fatality from that illness in 2011, Panamanian health officials said.
"Yes, that's right. It's the first case in 2011, it has been confirmed in the province of Veraguas," Health Minister Franklin Vergara told reporters.
"He died (last Saturday) in Chicho Fabrega Hospital, he was a young adult" of about 30, the health minister said.
People should take measures to prevent these illnesses, which "appear at harvest time and at the start of winter...when rodents carrying the virus get closer" to people's houses, putting in danger the lives of those who live there, Vergara said.
Panama registered more than 104 cases and at least 29 deaths from hantavirus between 1991-2010, official figures show.
The man who died last weekend was engaged in transporting grain from the central province of Los Santos to Veraguas, media reports said.
Health officials in Los Santos announced Monday that they have established an epidemiological barrier between the local population and the victim's place of business in order to prevent anyone else from catching the disease.
Hantavirus is transmitted by long-tailed mice, which are found throughout the countryside.
The symptoms of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, or HPS, are first exhibited about one to three weeks after exposure to infected mice.
HPS is characterized by fever, chills and muscle aches, followed by the abrupt onset of respiratory distress and shortness of breath.
Muscle aches are severe, involving the thighs, hips, back and sometimes the shoulder. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Infected mice secrete the virus in their urine, saliva and droppings. A person may be exposed to hantavirus by breathing dust after cleaning rodent droppings or disturbing nests, or by living or working in rodent-infested settings. EFE