As the warm weather continues in Saskatchewan, provincial officials are urging residents to take precautions against hantavirus.
People are most often exposed to hantavirus by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings of infected deer mice.
Hantavirus infection is rare but potentially fatal.
Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
“Initial symptoms can quickly develop into a very severe and often fatal lung disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome,” Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said. “Seek urgent medical attention if you develop a fever, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of exposure to potentially infested areas.”
People can come in contact with hantavirus when cleaning out enclosed or poorly ventilated buildings (such as grain bins, sheds, barns, garages, trailers, cottages and homes) that have had mouse infestations.
Exposure can also occur when cleaning farm equipment such as combines or vehicles that have been in storage.
When cleaning rodent-infested areas, people should:
- Ventilate the building by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
- Use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves;
- Wear goggles and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings in a confined space;
- Dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth;
- Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing;
- Steam clean, shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water; and
- Wash clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.
You can also reduce exposure to hantavirus by:
- Blocking openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
- Storing human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly-fitted lids; and
- Moving woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.
There have been 30 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in Saskatchewan from 1994 to 2015, 10 of which resulted in death.