Cleaning Cabins? Protect Yourself from Hantavirus

Cleaning Cabins? Protect Yourself from Hantavirus

May 27, 2010

The Health District is urging people to be aware that deer mice can carry Hantavirus.  A person may be exposed to Hantavirus by breathing dust after cleaning rodent droppings or disturbing nests, or by living or working in rodent-infested settings.

The deer mouse is the main carrier of Hantavirus in the western United States; however, all wild rodents should be avoided. In Washington, about 14% of over 1,100 deer mice tested have been Hantavirus positive.

Hantavirus symptoms usually begin one to three weeks after exposure to infected deer mice. The illness is characterized by fever, chills and muscle aches, followed by the abrupt onset of respiratory distress and shortness of breath. The muscle aches are severe, involving the thighs, hips, back and sometimes the shoulder. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

To avoid possible exposure follow these steps when cleaning rodent-infested areas:

  • Wear latex or rubber gloves and sensible work clothes with long sleeves.
  • Mix a solution of one cup bleach to ten cups water or use a household disinfectant that kills viruses.
  • Thoroughly spray or soak any dead mice, traps, droppings, or nesting areas with disinfectant or bleach solution.
  • Do NOT vacuum, sweep, or dust. This may spread the virus through the air. Use rags, sponges, and mops that have been soaked in the disinfectant solution.
  • Wipe down counter tops, cabinets, and drawers. Mop floors and baseboards.
  • Steam clean carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture.
  • Wash clothes and bedding in hot water and detergent. Set the dryer on high.
  • To dispose of contaminated items, including dead mice and mousetraps, put them in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and put it in another plastic bag. Seal the outer bag and put in your outdoor garbage can.
  • Disinfect or throw away the gloves you used.
  • When you are done, wash your hands or shower with soap and hot water.
  • If you are cleaning out a building that has been closed up, such as a cabin, shed or garage, air out the building for at least one hour by opening windows and doors. Leave the building while it is airing out.
  • Wear at least a half-face air purifying respirator equipped with a H.E.P.A. filter. Respirators are not considered protective if a proper face seal is not achieved. Respirator use practices should be instructed by a knowledgeable person to ensure proper fit. For more information on respirators to go
  • Dust masks will provide some protection but not the best protection.
  • For heavy contamination in an enclosed area such as a garage, shed, or crawl space consult a professional remediation firm.

More information on Hantavirus