August 25, 2010
A wild deer mouse trapped in Rancho Bernardo has tested positive for the potentially-deadly hantavirus, prompting San Diego County Vector Control officials to urge the public to prevent rodent infestations if they can and to be careful if they have to clean up nests, droppings and urine.
“Hantavirus can be deadly, but it is preventable. The best way to protect yourself from the disease is to keep mice out of houses, garages and sheds.” said Jack Miller, Director of the County Department of Environmental Health. “People should use wet-cleaning methods when cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting materials to prevent them from contracting the disease by inhaling dust particles that contain the virus.”
The mouse was the second rodent to test positive for the disease in San Diego County this month and the 20th this year, compared to 14 in 2009. Vector Control officials said more rodents have tested positive this year than in recent years because the region’s rodent population was swelled by a rainy winter and cool summer.
Vector Control randomly samples wild mice to determine the extent of the virus. Hantavirus is carried by wild rodents, primarily deer mice. The virus is found in rodent droppings and urine and can be inhaled by humans when it becomes airborne. The airborne virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), which can begin with symptoms similar to the flu, but in rare cases, can lead to severe breathing difficulties and even death. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for hantavirus.
Protecting Yourself from Hantavirus
- Keep rodents out. Screen or block holes and openings that could allow infestations.
- If you can avoid rodent-infested areas, do so. If you can’t, do not stir up dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent droppings and urine.
- If you rodents infest your home or living space, eliminate the infestations immediately.
- Clean up rodent droppings and urine using the wet cleaning method described below.
Do not sweep or vacuum infested areas. Instead, use wet cleaning methods:
- Ventilate affected areas by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.
- Use rubber gloves. Spray a 10 percent bleach solution (2 tablespoons bleach to 1 cup of water) onto dead rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps, and surrounding areas and let the disinfectant stand for at least 15 minutes before cleaning. Clean with a sponge or a mop.
- Place disinfected rodents and debris into two plastic bags, seal them and discard in the trash.
- Wash gloves in a bleach solution, then soap and water, and dispose of them using the same double-bag method. Thoroughly wash your bare hands with soap and water.
For more information, visit the County Department of Environmental Health Hantavirus web page or call (858) 694-2888.
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