Hantavirus Awareness Season

With the return of warm temperatures and pleasant weather, residents in saguache Today begin spending more time outdoors. Animals also become more active, moving around in search of new food and preparing nests and burrows for the summer breeding season. As you go about spring cleaning barns, outbuildings, and even our homes, it is important to be aware of a disease that can be carried by Deer Mice called Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which can be transmitted to humans through contact with mouse urine, droppings, or dust that may have mouse urine or droppings. Hantavirus can cause serious illness and even death in 38% of cases.

“Awareness, prevention, and early medical care are key to protecting local residents from this dangerous disease,” says SLV Regional Epidemiologist Lilian Coll.

Deer mice are cute but are carriers of the deadly HPD, so use caution when spring cleaning

Deer mice, which have tawny backs, white bellies, big eyes and ears carry the virus. Typically, about 10-15 percent of deer mice are infected, but it is not possible to tell if a mouse has the virus by its appearance or behavior, so it is recommended to take precautions when any signs of mice are present. Other rodents and household pets do not carry or become ill from hantavirus.

Hantavirus is of special concern to residents in the San Luis Valley because there have been a high number of cases here. In 2018, there were five confirmed cases in Colorado, including one in the San Luis Valley.

Early symptoms of HPS are fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, especially in large muscles. Some people also have a headache, nausea, and other symptoms. Cough and shortness of breath appear later as the lungs fill with fluid. A patient’s condition can deteriorate very quickly at that stage. Seek medical attention as soon as you start developing symptoms.

Use caution when doing your spring cleaning as contact with mouse urine, droppings, can put you at risk for Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). Photo: Saguache Today/Kathy Bedell

To prevent contracting hantavirus, it is important to approach cleaning cautiously. If you encounter mouse droppings or nesting materials, do not sweep or vacuum. First, air out the building by opening all doors and windows for at least 30 minutes. Make sure to wear a mask before attempting any cleanup.

Then, wet the area with a solution of 1.5 cups bleach per gallon of water; let the solution sit for 15 minutes, clean up saturated droppings and dust with paper towels and wipe the area down. Any soiled material should be placed into a plastic bag and deposited immediately in an outdoor trash can.

More information about hantavirus can be found HERE.

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