Saskatchewan residents are reminded to take precautions against hantavirus, as the weather continues to warm up and they resume seasonal activities.
People are most often exposed to hantavirus by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice. Hantavirus infection is rare but potentially fatal. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
“Initial symptoms can quickly develop into a very severe and often fatal lung disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome,” Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said. “Seek urgent medical attention if you develop a fever, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of exposure to potentially infested areas.”
People can come in contact with hantavirus when cleaning out enclosed or poorly ventilated buildings (such as grain bins, sheds, barns, garages, trailers, cottages and homes) that have had mouse infestations. Exposure can also occur when cleaning farm equipment such as combines or vehicles that have been in storage.
“It is important to take adequate precautions to avoid the risk of becoming infected with hantavirus,” Shahab said. When cleaning rodent-infested areas, people should:
- 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.
You can also reduce exposure to hantavirus by:
- Blocking openings that might allow rodents to enter a building
- Storing human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly-fitted lids
- Moving woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.
There have been 30 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in Saskatchewan from 1994 to 2015, 10 of which resulted in death.
For more information on hantavirus, visit the Government of Saskatchewan’s website at http://www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/health/diseases-and-conditions/hantavirus and HealthLine Online at http://www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.