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Take Precautions Against Exposure to Deadly Hantavirus

It's time to take precautions against Hantavirus! The viral disease is serious and frequently fatal. It is caused by contact with the urine, saliva and feces of deer mice, especially by breathing in the dust of dried deer mouse droppings. Deer mice (pictured) are plentiful in our area. Opening cabins, cleaning outbuildings and even camping can be opportunities for infection.

Deer Mouse

The early symptoms are much like the flu, including fever, chills and muscle aches. Tiredness, cough, headache and vomiting may also be present. In the later stages of infection,the lungs fill with fluid, making breathing difficult. If you have these symptoms within eight weeks of a contact with deer mice droppings or nests, contact your physician immediately. Since 1985,14 out of 28 people infected in Colorado have died from Hantavirus.

The following preventative guidelines are recommended:

Get rid of mice, their food and their shelter!

  • Remove old cars, junk and brush piles from your yard.
  • Store livestock feed, hay and wood above ground, 100 feet from homes.
  • Use sheet metal to plug holes as small as a quarter-inch in walls, pipes and vents.
  • Remove food and water sources near buildings.
  • Don't leave pet food out.
  • Put garbage in containers with tight lids.
  • If you already have mice in your home or outbuildings, it is best to kill them with spring-loaded traps, so that the mouse dies quickly, can be easily removed and the site well cleaned.
  • To dispose of a dead mouse:
    • Wear rubber gloves.
    • Before you touch the mouse, soak it and the surrounding area with a strong disinfectant solution such as ethyl alcohol, Lysol or a half-cup of bleach mixed with five cups of water.
    • After soaking for at least 15 minutes, use a paper towel, paper plate or newspaper to pick up the mouse.
    • Place everything in a plastic bag, seal it in a second plastic bag and put in the outdoor garbage.

Clean with extreme care

  • Use a half-face air purifier or respirator when cleaning or working in mouse-infested areas.
  • Do not sweep or vacuum rodent droppings until spraying with a disinfectant solution.
  • Wear rubber gloves for cleaning. Open doors and windows for fresh air.
  • Spray droppings, nest material and trap areas with disinfectant.
  • Allow to soak 15 minutes before cleaning with a mop, sponge or wet vacuum.
  • Carpets may be sprayed with a disinfectant and steam-cleaned.
  • Bedding and clothing may be cleaned with hot, soapy water.
  • If an area is heavily infested with rodents, call the Colorado Department of Health at (303) 692-2035 before you enter.

For more information go to the Colorado State Dept of Health web site

or... visit the web site of the National Center for Infectious Diseases

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