Protect yourself from hantavirus

Photo courtesy Goverment of Saskatchewan

The provincial government is reminding residents about the risk of hantavirus this spring.

The virus can be contracted in areas infested by rodents, often when cleaning enclosed buildings or farm equipment and vehicles after winter.

“You can get hantavirus by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice,” Saskatchewan’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Denise Werker said.

“Hantavirus can cause a rare, but often fatal lung illness known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.”

Symptoms start within one to six weeks of exposure. They can include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

“Some people develop severe symptoms that can be life threatening. Seek medical attention immediately if you have a cough, fever and shortness of breath,” the press release said.

There have been 31 people with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in Saskatchewan since 1994. Ten have died.

The province gave the following tips to avoid exposure to hantavirus:

  • Be aware of mouse droppings and nesting materials
  • Ventilate the building by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
  • Use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves;
  • Wear goggles and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings in a confined space;
  • Dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth;
  • Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing;
  • Steam clean, shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water; and
  • Wash clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.

Also, take steps to reduce rodent infestations:

  • Block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
  • Store human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly fitted lids; and
  • Move woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.