Prevent Exposure to Hantavirus this Spring
Spring season is often a time for cleaning, which is why Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) reminds everyone that there are some important steps to take to protect against the respiratory disease, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). Hantavirus is carried by rodents, most commonly the deer mouse in Colorado. People can get HPS when they are exposed to infected rodents or their urine or droppings. Not all deer mice carry the virus and there is no way to tell if a mouse is infected, thus the best way to prevent HPS is to eliminate or minimize contact with rodents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hantavirus has a mortality rate of 38% and begins with symptoms of fatigue, fever and muscle aches especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal and can begin anytime between 1 to 5 weeks of exposure. JCPH encourages everyone cleaning out garages, sheds, cabins, trailers and other places that have been ignored for most of winter, to keep their eyes open for any evidence that deer mice have been present and to take the necessary precautions.
Hantavirus can be stirred up in dust and breathed in by people. Sweeping up mouse droppings or wiping out areas where rodents have been present can stir the virus into the air where it can be inhaled.
Use the following steps to clean any areas you suspect have been contaminated:
Use latex, rubber or vinyl gloves and thoroughly wet the areas with a bleach solution or household disinfectant. Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water and let soak 5 minutes. The recommended concentration of bleach solution is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
Once wet, contaminated materials can be taken up with damp towel and then mopped or sponged with bleach solution or household disinfectant.
Contaminated gloves should be disinfected before taking them off.
After taking off the clean gloves, wash hands with soap and warm water.
“These steps are especially important as vacuuming an area without first wetting it down can stir up dust and will not provide the necessary protection against Hantavirus,” said Dave Volkel, JCPH Zoonosis (animal-borne disease) program specialist.
The best way to prevent the risk of Hantavirus infection is to control the presence of rodents in and around the home. JCPH also advises that residents rodent proof their homes by plugging holes and entry points where mice can get inside; eliminating food sources for rodents; and removing abandoned vehicles and wood, brush and junk piles where rodents hide.
Currently there is not an effective treatment for Hantavirus, so take precaution when cleaning this spring. For more information, please see our Hantavirus webpage at http://jeffco.us/health/health_T111_R50.htm, or call the Zoonosis Program at 303-271-5700.