There was an outbreak of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Las Tablas  and Guararé  in Los Santos province in late 1999 and early 2000 that infected a dozen people and left three dead. It forced the cancellation of the Carnaval celebration in Las Tablas  that year. Panama’s biggest Carnaval is held in Las Tablas, and the cancellation was a major blow to the local economy.
Hantavirus is an infectious disease most often spread through the inhalation of particles from the feces, urine, or saliva of infected rodents. However, person-to-person infection is also possible. The disease is characterized by fever, headache, and muscle pain followed by hypotension, shock, difficulty breathing, and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). It’s a serious disease and the fatality rate can be above 50 percent. There is no treatment, cure, or vaccine. However, getting health care immediately, especially oxygen therapy, greatly increases one’s chance of recovery. Anyone who has been around rodents and experiences shortness of breath and fever should tell a doctor immediately.
Hantavirus was first discovered in the Four Corners region of the western United States in 1993, and before the Las Tablas outbreak it had not been diagnosed in Central America. A major public-health push, in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, appears to have largely contained the disease so far, though officials remain vigilant about the possibility of a major flare-up, especially around Carnaval time. There have been a handful of cases both on and outside the Azuero  in the years since the initial outbreak. In 2007, five people nationwide were diagnosed with the virus, two of whom died.
The chance of contracting hantavirus is exceedingly low, especially for those who avoid contact with rodents. Mice and rats infest some lodgings in the Panamanian countryside, especially the cheaper places. It’s probably worth splurging for better digs in Los Santos province, since that’s where the disease erupted in Panama. Rats are a fact of life in Kuna Yala , unfortunately, and it’s not unusual to hear them rustling in the rafters of tourist huts or running along the beach at night. Clean up messes and keep all food packed away at night.