(PRWEB) April 28, 2015
Two cases of hantavirus in April 2015 have helped refocus attention on the dangers of living and working amongst rodent infestations. A 36-year old Colorado man has died (this being the second Colorado, hantavirus fatality already this year) while a 20-year old University of Montana student was seriously ill but is recovering.
Unlike rabies or many other animal-transmitted diseases where peculiar behavior may be a warning sign, carrier rodents appear to be unaffected by hantavirus. For infected humans, however, the death rate stands at 38%. There is currently no cure or vaccine but early treatment improves one's odds of survival.
Spring Season Puts Us at Heightened Risk for Contracting This Deadly, Respiratory Disease.
Spring is an especially dangerous time for hantavirus exposure. It's when we're busy cleaning out cabins, sheds and enclosed areas that have been sealed up for the winter, and stirring up accumulated dust that's contaminated with rodent saliva, urine and feces. Even working with rodent-contaminated garden soil has been cited as a possible source for infection with hantavirus. Breathing contaminated dust is the most common way that people become infected, though touching your nose or mouth with contaminated hands may also cause infection.
Thus far, hantavirus cases have been confirmed in 34 states, with the great majority being west of the Mississippi River. (In addition to hantavirus, however, rodents in the US can transmit 9 other directly-transmitted diseases and more than a dozen indirectly-transmitted diseases via the ticks, fleas and mites they carry.)
What Are the Symptoms of Hantavirus?
Early symptoms of hantavirus can appear anywhere between 1-6 weeks after exposure and mimic those of influenza: fever, fatigue, muscle ache, headache and/or chills. Within 4-10 days of the first symptoms, however, dry cough and difficulty breathing become pronounced, with possible cardiac and respiratory failure following shortly thereafter.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
- Steps should be taken to eradicate exiting rodent populations (especially mice, in the case of hantavirus) and prevent future infestations: exterior entryways (as small as 1/4") should be closed off, existing populations trapped, etc. before cleanup efforts begin. To assist with this effort, AlabamaHealth.com has designed an online infographic that's packed with information on how to rid your home of mice… and keep them out. It may be viewed and shared at http://www.alabamahealth.com/how-to-get-rid-of-mice.php
- Open windows and doors for at least 30 minutes to help ventilate mice-contaminated areas before cleaning.
- During cleanup, wear rubber, latex or vinyl gloves if signs of rodent activity are present. Ironically, dust masks and surgical masks do not provide protection against viruses(1) so it is important that dust be well saturated with bleach/water solution to prevent it from becoming airborne.
- Any contaminated objects that can easily be moved (such as storage boxes), should be taken outside for cleaning. Hantavirus remains infectious for up to 2-3 days in the environment but can be inactivated more quickly with exposure to sunlight. Just be certain to stay upwind of dust that may become wind-blown.
- Accumulated dirt and dust should be sprayed heavily with a 1:9 bleach/water solution. Rodent droppings and any dead rodents and nests should be soaked with this solution for 5 minutes before moving.
- The same 1:9 bleach/water solution should be used to mop floors and disinfect countertops, cabinets, drawers, etc. Be careful to avoid stirring up dust into the air.
- Clean with paper towels that can be discarded in a plastic trash bag, along with all debris, dead rodents, nest materials, etc. Seal bag tightly when full.
- Place full trash bag into a second trash bag, seal tightly and place in a covered trash can for disposal.
- Discard gloves and clean-up well with soap and warm water.
- If you experience flu-like symptoms or difficulty breathing and have reason to believe that you may have been exposed to rodents, seek medical attention immediately.
To help rid your home of mice, AlabamaHealth.com has created an infographic entitled, "How to Get Mice to Move Out and Stay Out" that is posted online at http://www.alabamahealth.com/how-to-get-rid-of-mice.php. We encourage you to become familiar with these tips and share them with others.
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