Broadcast Engineers, Beware the Dangers of Hantavirus

Transmitter sites sometimes house pests that can be dangerous to our health
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LOS ANGELES � I�ve often reminded broadcast engineers to be careful at transmitter sites, primarily with respect to high voltage in older tube-type transmitters. But a more subtle, insidious danger can exist, as well.

�Broadcast engineers know all too well that transmitter sites often become a 'bed and breakfast' for various uninvited guest. Rats, snakes, wasp, spiders and other guest can take up residents inside our transmitter buildings.� Besides being a nuisance, they can also be dangerous to our health,� Larry Wilkins writes in a recent�Alabama Broadcaster�s Association tech e-newsletter. �Unfortunately, we must also deal with the possibility of exposure to Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) a respiratory disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine and droppings.�

Let�s look at the following information from the Southern Nevada Health District for some important information on Hantavirus.

�In the United States, Hantavirus infection is usually spread by inhaling the virus, which is in the droppings, urine and saliva of infected rodents. Although uncommon, the virus can also be passed to humans through a rodent bite.

�Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk of HPS. Rodent infestation in and around the home (and transmitter sites) remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure. Even healthy individuals are at risk for HPS infection if exposed to the virus.

��The virus does not make rodents sick, but people who come into close contact with rodents may get sick. Even though not all rodents have the virus, it is difficult to properly identify mice; so all rodents should be avoided.

�What are the symptoms? People who are sick from HPS may at first think they have the flu. The difference is that with this virus the breathing problems become worse, the lungs fill with fluid which may cause the breathing to stop and the person to die. The fatality rate is approximately 50%. Early symptoms include:

  • � � ��Fatigue
  • � � ��Fever
  • � � ��Muscle aches (especially in the thighs, hips, back and sometimes the shoulders)

About half of HPS patients also experience the following symptoms:

  • � � ��Nausea
  • � � ��Vomiting
  • � � ��Diarrhea
  • � � ��Abdominal pain
  • � � ��Headache
  • � � ��Dizziness
  • � � ��Chills

�There is no specific treatment, cure or vaccine for HPS. Persons with severe breathing problems are often placed on oxygen and a ventilator. If a person has been around rodents and have symptoms of fever, deep muscle aches and severe shortness of breath they should see a doctor immediately.�

It would be wise to have a professional organization, such as a pest control company, clean up infestations at your transmitter site, should one occur.�