Hantavirus Questions

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What is hantavirus?

A group of viruses carried by rodents. Some viruses cause the rare deadly disease Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).

What symptoms are displayed when one contract hantavirus?

Fever, severe muscle aches, and fatigue. After a few days you will have hard time breathing. Sometimes people will have headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Usually people do not have runny nose, sore throat, or rash.

How does one become exposed to hantavirus?

Hantavirus is transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva. Individuals become infected with HPS after breathing fresh aerosolized urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting materials.

What are the characteristics of the deer mouse?

  • Big eyes and ears
  • Head and body are normally about 2-3 inches long, the tail adds another 2-3 inches in length
  • Color varies from gray to reddish brown, depending on its age
  • The underbelly is always white and the tail has sharply defined white sides
  • Found almost everywhere in North America
  • Usually, likes woodlands, but also turns up in desert areas

How is hantavirus controlled?

  • Control Mice Inside:
    1. Eliminate food sources by washing dishes, cleaning floors and counter
    2. Put pet food and water away at night. Store food and garbage in containers with tight lids.
    3. Prevent Mice from Entering Homes and Buildings: Clear brush and grass from around foundation. Seal holes that mice may use to enter buildings and use flashing around the base of the house. Keep snap traps, baited with peanut butter, set continuously.
    4. Use sheet metal or concrete to seal holes around pipes leading into homes.
  • Control Mice Outside:
    1. Eliminate possible nesting sites. Elevate hay, woodpiles, and garbage cans and place them at least 100 feet from the house. Eliminate junk or things that provide shelter to rodents.
    2. Eliminate food sources. Store all animal feed in containers with lids. Discard excess food in the evening into containers with lids. Do not leave water bowls out at night.
    3. Natural rodent predators, such as non-poisonous snakes, owls, and hawks, may be beneficial in the control and reduction of rodents outside the home.
  • Avoid Rodents — Self explanatory

What measures should be taken to prevent contracting the disease?

Seal up rodent entry holes or gaps with steel wool, lath metal, or caulk. Trap rats and mice by using an appropriate snap trap. Clean up rodent food sources and nesting sites and take precautions when cleaning rodent-infested areas. Seal Up, Trap Up, Clean Up!

If I find deer mice, where I am training, living or playing what measures should be taken to have then tested for the disease?

Contact the Preventive Medicine Branch

To rid a habitat building or area, how should the building or area be cleaned?

  • Cleanup of Rodent Urine and Droppings and Contaminated Surfaces
    1. During cleaning, wear rubber, latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves, safety goggles and dust mask.
    2. Spray rodent urine and droppings with a disinfectant or chlorine solution until thoroughly soaked. (See Cleanup of Dead Rodents and Rodent Nests.)
    3. To avoid generating potentially infectious aerosols, do not vacuum or sweep rodent urine, droppings, or contaminated surfaces until they have been disinfected.
    4. Use a paper towel to pick up the urine and droppings. Place the paper towel in the garbage.
    5. After the rodent droppings and urine have been removed, disinfect items that might have been contaminated by rodents or their urine and droppings.
      1. Mop floors with a disinfectant or chlorine solution.
      2. Disinfect countertops, cabinets, drawers, and other durable surfaces with a disinfectant or chlorine solution.
      3. Spray dirt floors with a disinfectant or chlorine solution.
      4. Disinfect carpets with a disinfectant or with a commercial-grade steam cleaner or shampoo.
      5. Steam-clean or shampoo rugs and upholstered furniture.
      6. Launder potentially contaminated bedding and clothing with hot water and detergent. Use rubber, latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves when handling contaminated laundry. Machine-dry laundry on a high setting or hang it to air dry in the sun.
      7. Leave books, papers, and other items that cannot be cleaned with a liquid disinfectant or thrown away, outdoors in the sunlight for several hours, or in an indoor area free of rodents for approximately 1 week before cleanup. After that time, the virus should no longer be infectious. Wear rubber, latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves and wipe the items with a cloth moistened with disinfectant.
      8. Disinfect gloves before removing them with disinfectant or soap and water. After removing the clean gloves, thoroughly wash bare hands with soap and warm water.
  • Cleanup of Dead Rodents and Rodent Nests
    1. Wear rubber, latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves, safety goggles and dust mask.
    2. In the western United States, use insect repellent (containing DEET) on clothing, shoes, and hands to reduce the risk of fleabites that might transmit plague.
    3. Spray dead rodents and rodent nests with a disinfectant or a chlorine solution, soaking them thoroughly.
    4. Place the dead rodent or nest in a plastic bag or remove the dead rodent from the trap and place it in a plastic bag (See Precautions for Inside the Home.) When cleanup is complete (or when the bag is full), seal the bag, place it into a second plastic bag, and seal the second bag. Dispose of the material in the double bag by 1) burying it in a 2- to 3-foot-deep hole or 2) burning it or 3) discarding it in a covered trash can that is regularly emptied. Contact the local or state health department concerning other appropriate disposal methods.
    5. Clean up the surrounding area as described in Cleanup of Rodent Urine and Droppings and Contaminated Surfaces.

How often is hantavirus diagnosed in the Southwestern United States?

Rarely, between 1993 and 2005 approximately 400 cases were reported in 31 states.

When one contracts hantavirus what is the expected outcome?

The mortality rate for HPS is 40%.

William Beaumont
Army Medical Center

5005 N. Piedras St.
El Paso, Texas 79920
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Information Desk
915-742-2121

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