Protecting Yourself Against Hantavirus

Residents reminded to take precautions this spring

Spring is upon us and many have already begun spring cleaning processes. Please be reminded of the potential for exposure to Hantavirus.

Hantavirus is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva. Most cases occur in the spring during cleaning when people may breathe in air borne particles. It is especially important to take precautions while cleaning areas where mice or mouse droppings are present including homes, sheds, barns, cabins, and stored vehicles/equipment.

Early symptoms of Hantavirus are similar to the flu but can quickly develop into severe breathing problems.  In some cases Hantavirus infection can be fatal. If a person is infected the disease appears within one to five weeks. Initial symptoms include fever, body aches, and abdominal problems but can progress to severe trouble breathing. Anyone who develops difficulty breathing and has recently been in an area contaminated by rodents should see a doctor immediately.

The most effective precaution against infection is to keep rodents out of homes and work areas and immediately trap any that get in.

If you find signs of mice, properly clean and disinfect any areas contaminated by rodent droppings. To do so properly follow these steps:

  1. Wear rubber or plastic gloves. If you are cleaning in a confined space, wear a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered respirator.
  2. Do not sweep or vacuum rodent droppings. This will release particles into the air, which you could then breathe in.
  3. Spray droppings with a household disinfectant or a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water. Let the area soak for 10 minutes to make sure any virus within the droppings will be killed.
  4. Wipe up wet droppings with paper towels or a wet mop if dealing with a large area.
  5. Wash gloves in disinfectant and hot soapy water before taking them off.  Afterwards, wash your hands thoroughly.
  6. If a wet mop was used to clean the area, use disinfectant and hot soapy water to clean the mop.

For more information on Hantavirus, visit cypresshealth.ca or saskatchewan.ca.