Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a potentially fatal disease that’s transmitted by infected rodents. Around the White Mountain region, many homeowners see dealing with rodents as a necessary evil. If you’re dealing with mice often, it’s easy to get complacent about these furry intruders. Though you may not see the small mouse itself as a threat, the disease it could carry is extremely serious.
The early stages of the hantavirus mimic the flu, so it’s important to know about this potential danger. The sooner you can identify hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and seek treatment, the better your chances of recovery. Unfortunately, Hantavirus is difficult to diagnose, even for the well-educated. Your best line of defense is to prevent exposure to begin with.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is an infectious disease that anyone can catch. Even healthy patients can succumb to the hantavirus just days after experiencing their first symptoms. Individuals will get sick one to five weeks after their initial contact with the virus.
When Cleaning Gets Dangerous: Hantavirus Transmission
HPS is transmitted by rats and mice. In North America, known carriers for the hantavirus include the deer mouse, white-footed mouse, cotton rat, and rice rat. You can contract the hantavirus if you come into contact with urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected animal. These can settle into the animal’s bedding or in the dust around the area where these rodents are active. You can contract the disease by coming into contact with this matter.
If you’re regularly cleaning up the signs of rodent infestations in your cabin, you’re risking exposure to the Hantavirus if you don’t take proper precautions. If you’re cleaning a barn, shed, or unoccupied building in an area known to house hantavirus carriers, you should wear plastic gloves, goggles, and a respirator to protect yourself.
Never use a vacuum to suck up rodent droppings. This can turn the virus into an airborne threat. Instead, wet down the area liberally and wipe up rodents’ messes with wet paper towels. Avoid kicking up dust in any space where rodents have been present.
Symptoms & Treatment
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome looks like the flu in its first stage. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Four to 10 days after the initial onset of these symptoms, the disease progresses to include respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain. HPS has a fatality rate of 38 percent, according to the CDC.
Though there’s no set cure for HPS, treatment in an intensive care facility can improve your chances of survival. In this type of facility, you’ll have access to the respiratory support and care that’s necessary during the second stage of the illness when fluid collects in the lungs.
National surveillance for HPS began in 1993, after an outbreak in the Four Corners region of the United States. During this outbreak, 13 people died. In 2012, Yosemite National Park suffered an outbreak that killed three people. A 2017 outbreak resulted in three hospitalizations but no deaths.
Between 1993 and 2017, there were 697 confirmed cases of the hantavirus in the United States. Many of these continue to center around the Four Corners region or Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah where the disease was first detected. In 2006, a 40-year-old woman in the White Mountains region died from Hantavirus, bringing attention back to the ongoing problem in this area. That same year, seven other cases were reported, and four were fatal.
Beyond Cleaning: Hantavirus Prevention
Though proper cleaning methods can reduce your risk of exposure to Hantavirus, a better strategy is simply to avoid exposure to the disease in the first place. Living with rodents doesn’t have to be a fact of life in the White Mountain area.
Contact a professional for help exterminating and preventing mice in and around your property. At Bulwark Exterminating, we have the tools and strategies you need to eliminate rodent problems so you no longer have to worry about cleaning up potentially hazardous messes.
You can take steps to avoid contact with rodents outside the house as well. If you’re hiking or camping, stay away from rodent nests, sleep on an elevated mattress, and wash your hands frequently to help prevent this disease.
The more you know about the hantavirus, the better equipped you’ll be to avoid this disease. Educating yourself about HPS can also help you identify it as soon as possible if you, or someone you know, does contract the disease.