Saskatchewan residents are being reminded to take precautions against hantavirus as they start spring cleanup of enclosed buildings or vehicles.
Hantavirus infection is caused by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice. It can cause a rare, but potentially fatal lung disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
"Exposure most often occurs when cleaning up sheds, barns, garages, cabins, or vehicles after winter," Saskatchewan's Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Julie Kryzanowski said. "Particles can become airborne after sweeping, but it's also possible to get the virus by touching something that has been contaminated, and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes."
Symptoms usually start within one to six weeks of exposure. They include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
Some people develop severe symptoms that can be life threatening. Seek medical attention immediately if you have a cough, fever and shortness of breath.
Take the following precautions when cleaning rodent infested areas:
- ventilate the building by opening doors and windows, and then leave the area for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
- avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing;
- 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;
- dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth;
- steam clean, shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water; and
- wash exposed clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.
Prevention is also recommended to reduce rodent infestations:
- block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
- store human and animal food, water and garbage in pest-proof/resistant containers with tightly-fitted lids; and
- move woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.
Between 1994 and 2021, 36 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome were reported in Saskatchewan; 12 of those cases were fatal.
For more information on hantavirus, visit https://www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/health/diseases-and-conditions/hantavirus and HealthLine Online at www.healthlineonline.ca
For advice on symptoms or when to seek care, call HealthLine 811.
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