The 2012 summer was not a good year for Yosemite National Park as nine campers who stayed in the signature tent cabins came down with the hantavirus. This virus, spread through specific types of mice and rats, can lead to severe pulmonary distress and death.
Fortunately, the hantavirus is not very common in the United States however it is gaining more public attention due to the prominence in the news of this national park.
Here are some common facts to help better understand the virus.
First discovered in the early 1930s, the virus has been around for a long time and has been found in all states except Alaska and Hawaii. It is transmitted through the saliva, droppings and urine of deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats and white footed mice.
It is not transmitted from person to person, nor is it transmitted from other animals to humans. Therefore you are probably safe from your cat if your cat tends to eat mice.
Symptoms usually appear one to five weeks after exposure and are similar to the flu with fatigue, muscle aches, fever, headache, and nausea/vomiting. These can progress to pulmonary symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing due to fluid filling the lungs.
Diagnosis is typically made based on a combination of symptoms and known exposure to the saliva, droppings, and/or urine of mice and rats. If you have been exposed and are having symptoms, it is imperative you do not wait and instead contact your health care provider immediately.
Ridding your house, garage, shed and barn of mice is extremely difficult as they are tricky little critters, however prevention goes a long way in avoiding the hantavirus. Cleaning up urine and droppings requires that you spray the area with disinfectant or a water/bleach solution and let it soak in for at least five minutes before removing it.
Make sure to wear appropriate gloves that are made of plastic, rubber or vinyl, and a mask to prevent breathing in potential virus particles. Put the wiped up urine and droppings in its own plastic bag in your garbage to prevent others from accidentally coming in contact with the virus.
Make sure to thoroughly disinfect the area (floors, counters, cupboards, cabinets) with disinfectant or a bleach/water solution. Make sure to wash any material that may have come in contact with the mice or rats in hot water (blankets, pillows, towels, clothes) and keep food in metal or plastic containers with lids so they cannot chew through the plastic bags or a paper box.
This goes for the dry food of your animals. Consider calling an expert in rodent control for help and proper elimination.
Do all mice and rats have the hantavirus? Of course not, not even all deer mice or rice rats are infected. However it is important to take precautions at all times and be on the alert when in rural areas, camping, or in barns and sheds that may have mice.
1. Hantavirus Frequently Asked Questions. Web. 19 September, 2012.
2. Hantavirus. Web. 19 September, 2012.
Reviewed September 19, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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