Small animals such as rodents can sometimes carry deadly viruses, like hantavirus. Deer mice and other wild rodents can shed hantavirus in their urine, droppings, and saliva. People can become infected when they clean rodent-infested areas in their home or vehicle, or open cabins, sheds, or outbuildings (like barns and storage facilities) that have been closed for the winter. Stirring up dust and dirt that contains virus from fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials can cause hantavirus to become airborne. Symptoms usually first look like the flu, with fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. The disease then progresses to the pulmonary symptoms, which includes shortness of breath, cough, and difficulty breathing. Take these prevention tips along with you on your next camping trip or when cleaning out areas around your house where mice may live.
- There is no way to tell if a rodent is infected with hantavirus by its appearance; use safe cleaning practices every time you find rodent infestations.
- If you find rodent droppings, nesting material, or other signs of rodent activity, use disinfectant to wet down the area before cleaning it up. Wear gloves, and be sure to wash your hands after you have finished cleaning.
- If you develop severe flu-like symptoms with difficulty breathing after coming into contact with rodents or a rodent-infested area, go to the doctor.
- Seal up holes and gaps in your home or garage where rodents may be coming in.
- Place traps in and around your home to decrease rodent infestation.
- Put human food and animal feed in containers that rodents cannot access (metal or durable plastic).