According to People, 9-year-old Fernando Hernandez was recently taken off life support after contracting hantavirus. This relatively rare but deadly virus is spread by contact with rodents such as mice or rats. Typically, people get hantavirus if they are bitten by an animal infected with it or have contact with the droppings of a rodent carrying the virus.
The symptoms start out very subtle, similar to that of a cold. One might experience only coughing or shortness of breath, leading many to think it is nothing serious. Other times, people with hantavirus might suffer from a fever or nausea, thinking they have a bad bout of the flu. However, the infection moves quickly and will eventually cause fluid buildup in the lungs.
Hernandez was diagnosed with the virus just last February and since then has undergone many treatments and surgeries to save his life. The boy was transferred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio to ensure he was given any and all treatments available to restore his health. Unfortunately, he experienced a brain hemorrhage on October 26. As a result, he was placed on an ECMO machine which is intended to pump oxygen through the body of someone suffering from heart failure.
Despite the doctors’ efforts, the experience caused Hernandez to be brain dead. His family had to make the extremely painful choice to take him off the machine. His parents, though heartbroken, are proud of their son for remaining brave and in good spirits all the way until the end.
“I can tell you the last few weeks weren’t all that great for him… he was in constant pain but was holding on,” his family wrote on a GoFundMe page started to raise money for his funeral expenses. “I can also tell [you] even though he was in a bad spot, he WASN’T scared of one day going with God.”
Many people who did not even know the family have felt their pain and offered their support. In the short time since Hernandez’s passing, already more than $3,600 has been raised to give the boy the funeral he deserves and alleviate the burden of medical expenses on his grieving family.
Despite the relative rarity of this disease, it is important to understand the risks it presents and look out for the signs. Though only 728 cases of the virus have been reported in the United States as of January 2017, it is important to take precaution. If you think you have a rodent infestation in your home, it is best to call professional exterminators rather than attempt to fix the issue yourself.