Prevention is Key to Avoiding Hantavirus
SPOKANE, Wash. – June 10, 2011 – In an ongoing effort to reduce the spread of hantaviruses, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) continues to urge people to avoid contact with potentially infectious mice. This can be done by keeping mice out of the places where residents live and work, and by following safety precautions if cleaning up a mice-infested area.
In the Northwest, deer mice are the main carriers of hantavirus, which can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)—a disease that causes acute respiratory symptoms in humans. The mice shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus is mainly transmitted to people when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus—this can happen while working in or cleaning barns, sheds, outbuildings, warehouses and summer cabins that have not been occupied. Disturbing mice nests can result in exposure to hantaviruses. Infected deer mice can infest homes as well.
In the 17 years since hantavirus appeared in the U.S., there have been approximately 40 cases of HPS in Washington state. Between 1993 and 2001, over 1,100 deer mice were tested for hantavirus in the state, about 14 percent tested positive.
Hantavirus symptoms are flu-like and usually begin one to three weeks after exposure. The illness is characterized by fever, chills and muscle aches, followed by the abrupt onset of respiratory distress and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If you experience an abrupt onset of flu-like symptoms after cleaning rodent waste, consult your health care provider immediately. There is no vaccine to prevent hantavirus infections.
To avoid possible exposure, eliminate or minimize contact with rodents in your home, workplace, or campsite. Seal up holes and gaps in your home or garage. Place traps in and around your home to decrease rodent infestation. Clean up any easy-to-get food. Click here for important tips to avoid exposure when cleaning rodent-infested areas.
For questions or concerns about hantavirus, residents can call 509-324-1560, ext 7. Information can also be found at www.srhd.org. SRHD’s website offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane County a safer and healthier community.