The recent human diagnosis of Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a rodent-spread disease, has prompted Klamath County health officials to remind residents to take precautions to prevent exposure to the virus that causes HPS at their places of residence, work, and recreation.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare but serious respiratory infection that can be life threatening according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Humans can become infected by inhaling dust contaminated by droppings, urine or saliva from infected rodents. Hantavirus can also be transmitted through bites from infected rodents or from direct contact with rodent saliva and fecal matter, followed by touching the mouth or nose prior to hand washing. Symptoms generally appear within approximately two weeks, but can range from a few days to six weeks. Symptoms can be similar to pneumonia or common respiratory viruses like influenza, and may include fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.
The deer mouse is the most common rodent carrier of Hantavirus. Rodents that carry Hantavirus are generally found in rural areas. The common house mouse does not spread the virus. The deer mouse is tan or brown in color with white hair on the underbelly, while the typical house mouse is gray.
Since 1994, 587 cases of Hantavirus have been reported in more than half the states in the U.S. In Oregon, 16 cases have been reported. In 2011, Oregon reported 2 cases in Jefferson and Deschutes counties. Cases often occur in the spring after spring-cleaning in homes and businesses.
To minimize the risk of Hantavirus citizens should:
- Avoid contact with wild rodents.
- Keep rodents away from buildings by keeping lawns mowed and homes free of debris and trash. Wood piles should be at least 12 inches off the ground.
- Minimize rodent’s access to food, water or nesting sites.
- Keep food scraps and garbage in rodent-proof metal or thick plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Do not allow pet or animal food to sit out.
- Keep rodents out of buildings by using steel screens, caulk or weather stripping to seal holes or gaps around the house and garage doors. If openings near pipes and electrical wiring are present, seal with steel wool.
- If rodents are present, use snap traps with peanut butter mixed with oats as effective bait.
- Air out rodent infested places at least 30 minutes BEFORE cleanup.
- Use diluted household bleach or products containing phenol on rodent droppings 15 minutes before cleaning contaminated areas.
- Personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves and N100 respirators, is strongly recommended.
- Dead rodents should be sprayed with disinfectant, such as bleach, and then placed in a sealed plastic bag containing enough disinfectant to thoroughly wet the carcasses. Make sure to wash hands thoroughly after cleanup.
- Do NOT vacuum, use leaf blowers or sweep rodent-contaminated areas before cleaning, mopping or spraying with disinfectant. This could cause virus particles in the dust to become airborne.
Additional information on Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and cleaning up after rodents is available a CDC website, http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/ and on the Oregon Health Authority website, http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Pages/hantavirus-pulmonary-syndrome.aspx