Oct. 16, 2014 (COUNTY NEWS SERVICE) A North American deer mouse trapped in routine monitoring in a rural part of Fallbrook has tested positive for hantavirus, and County officials are reminding people to be careful if they ever have to clean up mice or rodent nests.
The mouse was the seventh rodent caught this year in the county to test positive for hantavirus, a disease that can be fatal.
People have very little chance of being exposed to hantavirus, despite the fact that it is common in San Diego County, as long as wild rodents stay in the wild and don’t get inside homes, garages, sheds and cabins.
However, people can be exposed if they sweep or vacuum places where infected rodents have nested. That’s because hantavirus can be inhaled if people disturb areas where dust from infected rodents, dried saliva, urine or feces can be “kicked up” into the air.
“The best way to protect yourself is to avoid exposure,” said County Department of Environmental Health Director Elizabeth Pozzebon. “But if you have to clean an area where rodents have been don’t sweep or vacuum. Use wet-cleaning methods.”
Avoid Exposure to Hantavirus:
- Seal up all external holes in homes, garages and sheds larger than a dime to keep rodents from getting in.
- Eliminate rodent infestations immediately.
- Avoid rodent-infested areas and do not stir up dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent droppings and urine.
- Clean up rodent droppings and urine using the wet cleaning method described below.
Use “Wet-cleaning” Methods to Prevent Inhaling the Virus:
- DO NOT SWEEP OR VACUUM INFESTED AREAS.
- Ventilate affected area by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.
- Use rubber gloves. Spray a 10 percent bleach solution or other disinfectants onto dead rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps, and surrounding areas and let the disinfectant stand for at least 15 minutes before cleaning.
- Clean with a sponge or a mop.
- Place disinfected rodents and debris into two plastic bags, seal them and discard in the trash.
- Wash gloves in a bleach solution, then soap and water, and dispose of them using the same double-bag method.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
People who inhale the hantavirus can develop hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which starts with flu-like symptoms but can grow into severe breathing difficulties that can kill. There is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that it kills 38 percent of the people who get it.
For more information, contact the County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) at(858) 694-2888 or visit the DEH hantavirus Web page.
Note: This is an article from County News Service, but it is a health issue and the editor felt it was critical to leave it as is.