Colorado hiker with symptoms similar to COVID-19 diagnosed with rare disease

National

BAILEY, Colo. (KDVR) — Sue Ryan feels lucky to be alive after several visits to the hospital in October. Ryan had several symptoms that overlap with COVID-19, but was eventually diagnosed with hantavirus — an extremely rare and often fatal disease.

“I had a high fever, headaches,” Ryan said.

Ryan said her symptoms began a few days after a hiking and camping trip on the Colorado Trail.  She took a COVID-19 test, which came back negative as her symptoms worsened.

“I had low oxygen. I went to the hospital, assumed I had COVID, again … negative,” Ryan said.

After a second trip to the hospital, medical experts tested for several influenzas and did imaging screenings before a pulmonologist determined Ryan’s diagnosis was the rare hantavirus.

“I had fluid around my lungs, fluid around my heart,” Ryan said. “Because it’s so rare, I was actually kind of blown away. I actually got this disease and didn’t die.”

According to the CDC, hantavirus is spread though the air by deer mice droppings or fluids.

Medical experts do not know where Ryan contracted the hantavirus, but Ryan wants others to know the disease exists in Colorado.

“It may not be COVID,” Ryan said. “If you have been around mice, let your doctor know about that event.”

The CDC says symptoms of hantavirus can include fatigue, fever, body aches and stomach problems.  According to UCHealth, there have been 151 cases in Colorado since 1993. 

“I’m very grateful to our doctors and medical system for figuring this out,” Ryan said. “I feel lucky to be on the green side. That’s what I feel.”

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