HANTAVIRUS: Public reminded to be cautious when cleaning rodent infested areas

HANTAVIRUS: Public reminded to be cautious when cleaning rodent infested areas

COCHISE COUNTY - The public is reminded to take precautions when cleaning or working around rodent infested areas to help prevent the transmission of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease.

Hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they come in contact with rodent droppings, urine, and saliva, which all have the potential to carry the disease, as well as nesting materials. In Cochise County, the deer mouse is the primary host, and rodent infestation in and around the home poses the biggest risk for hantavirus exposure.

Hantavirus is spread when virus-containing particles are stirred into the air. It is important to avoid actions that raise dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming. Infection occurs when you breathe in virus particles.

Potential risk activities for infection include opening and closing previously unused or under used building (cabins, pump houses, barns, garages and storage sheds); cleaning in and around your home where rodents have made their home and droppings/urine are present, crawl spaces, under houses or vacant buildings; campers and hikers can also be exposed when using trail shelters or camps in rodent infested habitats.

The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another. There is currently one case of hantavirus in Cochise County, with cases occurring an average once every couple of years. The person diagnosed with the disease is from the Benson area and is responding well to treatment.

Cochise Health & Social Services is providing the following information and advice:

Can pets transmit HPS to humans?

The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States are not known to be transmitted by any types of animals other than certain species of rodents. Dogs and cats are not known to carry hantavirus; however, they may bring infected rodents into contact with people if they catch such animals and carry them home

Signs & Symptoms.

Due to the small number of cases, the “incubation time” is not positively known. However, based on limited information, it appears symptoms may develop between one and eight weeks after exposure to fresh urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents.

Early Symptoms: Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal. There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all patients experience these symptoms.

Late Symptoms: Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath as the lungs fill with fluid.

Prevention: Eliminate or minimize contact with rodents in your home, workplace, or campsite.

Cleaning Up After Rodents: When you begin cleaning, it is important that you do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming droppings, urine, or nesting materials.

  • Before starting cleanup, ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for at least 30 minutes to allow fresh air to enter the area. Use cross-ventilation and leave the area during the airing-out period.
  • Wear N-95 masks when entering rodent infested or suspected infested areas.
  • Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning urine and droppings.
  • Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water and let soak for five minutes. The recommended concentration of bleach solution is one-part bleach to 10 parts water. When using a commercial disinfectant, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label for dilution and disinfection time.
  • Use a paper towel to pick up the urine and droppings, place this in a plastic bag that can be sealed and dispose of the waste in the garbage. Do not squeeze the air out of the plastic bag.
  • After the rodent droppings and urine have been removed, disinfect items that might have been contaminated by rodents or their urine and droppings.

If you are concerned or suspect possible hantavirus exposure, please contact your primary care provider, or seek treatment at your local hospital.