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Spring cleanup precautions against Hantavirus

March 17, 2011
CONTACT: Lon Kightlinger, (605) 773-3737
Spring cleanup precautions against Hantavirus
PIERRE, S.D. – As South Dakotans work outdoors around sheds, barns or other places where mice are found, they need to take steps to prevent Hantavirus says a state health official.
South Dakota has reported 13 cases of Hantavirus, including 4 deaths, since 1993 when the disease was first detected in the southwestern United States. More than 560 cases have been reported in the U.S. since 1993.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome fills the lungs with fluid and can cause respiratory failure. Rodents, primarily deer mice, carry the virus that causes the disease.  
“Because deer mice are found all over the state and are active all year, the risk for the virus is statewide and year round,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “That’s why routine rodent control around the home is so important.”
People are infected when they breathe in aerosolized virus from the droppings, urine or saliva of the 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 and have been around mice.
To 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 cut down food sources and nesting sites for mice. Use thick plastic or metal containers with tight lids for garbage and for storing pet food.
For more information about Hantavirus see the web at http://doh.sd.gov/hantavirus or www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/.