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Health Department offers recommendations for preventing Hantavirus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Friday, September 14, 2012
Lon Kightlinger, (605) 773-3737 


Health Department offers recommendations for preventing Hantavirus


PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakotans should be aware of the risk of Hantavirus as temperatures cool off and rodents move indoors, says a state health official.


Hantavirus is caused by a virus carried by rodents. It can result in Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, which fills the lungs with fluid and can lead to respiratory failure. Deer mice are the primary carriers of the virus that causes the disease.  


“Routine rodent control measures are particularly important this time of year as rodents look to move inside,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “The risk for Hantavirus is statewide and year round. It can happen wherever there are rodent-infested buildings.”


People get infected when they breathe in aerosolized virus from the droppings, urine or saliva of mice. Symptoms usually appear within two to four weeks of exposure and include fatigue, a fever of 101-104°, muscle aches, cough, vomiting and diarrhea. Seek medical care immediately if you have fever, deep muscle aches, and severe shortness of breath after exposure to mice.


South Dakota has reported 15 cases of Hantavirus and five deaths since 1993 when the disease was first detected, including one death earlier this year. More than 570 cases have been reported in the U.S. since 1993, including a cluster of nine cases this summer at Yosemite National Park in California that has resulted in three deaths.


To control mice and prevent Hantavirus infection:

  • Seal gaps around roofs, attics, basements, windows, doors, foundations, vents, air conditioners, under sinks and other pipes.
  • Set traps where you find mice, nesting materials, urine or droppings.
  • Wear rubber or plastic gloves to clean up dead mice or their droppings.
  • Spray dead mice, urine or droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of 1½ cups household bleach and 1 gallon of water. Soak for 5 minutes, wipe up with a paper towel and put everything in a plastic bag and seal. Put in a second bag and seal that as well.
  • Clean the area with a disinfectant or bleach solution. Don't use vacuum cleaners or brooms, since they can create aerosols. Wash gloved hands with soap and water and wash again after taking off gloves.
  • Keep your house and yard free of junk and rubbish to limit food sources and nesting sites for mice. Use thick plastic or metal containers with tight lids for garbage and for storing pet food.


Learn more about Hantavirus and its prevention at http://doh.sd.gov/hantavirus or http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/index.html.