New concerns accompany the mice that invade homes and businesses. Local deer mice have been found to carry and transmit a severe, potentially lethal, disease known as HPS (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome).
The disease has probably been present for a long time but hadn't been identified until recently. It was first identified in the southwestern United States.
HPS begins as a flu-like illness. People may have a fever, sore muscles, headaches, nausea, and have shortness-of-breath. As the disease progresses, fluid builds up in the lungs making breathing difficult. About 60 - 70 % of people with HPS die. Fortunately, the disease is very rare.
Throughout the world, hantavirus is normally found in rats, mice, voles, chipmunks and other rodents. The rodents do not seem to be affected by it. In Canada and the United States, deer mice seem to be the primary source of the strain of virus that causes the disease in humans.
People get infected when they breathe in the virus that contaminates rodent urine, droppings and saliva. It may also be possible to catch the virus by eating or drinking contaminated products or by being bitten by an infected rodent. The disease does not seem to spread from person to person.
- prevent rodent entry into buildings
- if a rodents get inside, eliminate them as soon as possible
- use traps so that rodent bodies can be removed (when using poisons, rodents may die in inaccessible areas)
- never touch dead rodents or used traps (wear rubber gloves)
- put dead rodents into a bucket of household disinfectant before burying the bodies
- disinfect used traps before reuse
- do not enter dusty crawl spaces where rodents have been active unless wearing at least an appropriate respirator, rubber gloves and coveralls
- when cleaning up rodent droppings, first wet them with a household disinfectant to kill the virus and to avoid creating dust which you could breathe
- do not use a vacuum as it ejects a tremendous number of small airborne particles which are easily breathed into your lungs