Think Hantavirus

hantaIt’s Hantavirus Season! (From Inyo-Mono Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson)

The signs of spring are all around us, and many people are eager to begin spring cleaning of their garages, sheds, barns, or decide to make that 1st trip of the season to the cabin. It is important that people know what steps they can take to protect themselves against a hantavirus infection.

Both Montana and Colorado have already reported 3 cases each, and California has possibly had its first case, probably acquired in the Truckee area.

Infections with hantavirus often increase as people begin to clean their garages and sheds in the warmer spring weather. Cleaning activities can disturb nesting materials contaminated with dried saliva, urine, or droppings from infected deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus). The disturbed nesting materials become airborne and the air is inhaled causing an exposure to the virus. This exposure leads to a hantavirus infection. A person might also be infected with hantavirus if contaminated materials are directly introduced into broken skin or into the eyes or mouth.

Symptoms can begin 1-6 weeks after becoming infected with the virus. The illness typically starts with 3-5 days of “flu-like” symptoms including fever, sore muscles, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. But remember, flu season is going away! Within a few days the illness rapidly progresses to severe shortness of breath. Early diagnosis of a hantavirus infection and immediate medical care increase the likelihood of a full recovery.

Individuals exposed to rodents or their waste who experience symptoms should immediately seek medical treatment and notify their provider that they have been around rodents or rodent wastes. Giving this information to your provider will help him or her to look closely for any rodent-carried disease, such as a hantavirus infection.

The best way to prevent hantavirus transmission is by controlling rodent populations in areas where you live and work.
Seal up cracks and gaps in buildings that are larger than 1/4 inch (5 mm), including window and door sills, under sinks around the pipes, in foundations, attics, and any rodent entry hole.

Trap indoor rats and mice with snap traps, and remove rodent food sources.
Keep food (including pet food) in rodent-proof containers.
If you find places where rodents have nested, or if you find rodent droppings or waste, follow these steps to help to prevent exposure to hantavirus while cleaning:

Ventilate spaces that have been closed for the winter for 30 minutes before entering.
Wear rubber or plastic gloves
Thoroughly spray/soak area with a disinfectant or mixture of bleach and water to reduce dry dusty conditions in the area being cleaned –
Wipe or mop the area with a sponge or paper towel (throw away items after use).
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after removing gloves.
Never sweep or vacuum in these areas as this can stir up dust and aerosolize the droppings.
Cute but Deadly!

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