What is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome and how is it spread?

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is a severe respiratory disease caused, in this region, by the Sin Nombre hantavirus. The disease is carried by certain rodents, especially deer mice. The rodents will shed the virus in their droppings, urine, and saliva. Most commonly, people contract the disease when particles of the virus are breathed in. This usually occurs when droppings, dead mice or nesting materials are stirred up.

What are the symptoms and is it treatable?

Within 1-6 weeks from exposure to the virus, individuals may experience fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and coughing.  Hantavirus can result in respiratory failure and even death. If treatment is sought early, individuals fare better; however, at this time there are no specific treatments for hantavirus.

Deer mice on a log Deer mice on a log

What can I do to protect myself?

The best preventive measure is to eliminate all contact with rodents.  Keep them away from all areas including your home, cabin, garage, shed, and campsite.

  • Eliminate places that rodents can hide and breed around your home, garage, shed or recreation area.  Remove brush, rock piles, trash, and piles of lumber.
  • Fill all structural holes with wire screening, steel wool, and caulk, or cement.
  • Store all foodstuffs (e.g., dry pet food, grass seed, groceries) in glass, metal, or durable plastic rodent-proof containers.
  • Keep all garbage cans tightly covered.
  • Clean up all crumbs, and do not leave out dirty dishes.
  • Set and maintain spring-loaded traps inside and outside.
  • Take precautions before and during rodent clean-up.

Cleaning Precautions

  • Open all doors and windows at least 30 minutes prior to cleaning.
  • Use gloves.
  • Spray all rodent droppings, nest materials, and remains with a solution of bleach water (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).
  • Let the bleach solution soak for 5-10 minutes before cleaning with a paper towel.
  • Place all contaminated materials into a sealed bag and then place them in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Disinfect gloves before removing them and then wash your hands thoroughly. 

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage