Health officials are reminding Saskatchewan residents to take precautions against hantavirus infections. Deer mice, the animal that carries the disease, are present throughout Saskatchewan.
There have been four hantavirus cases reported this year, including two recent deaths. The most recent death occurred in an adult in northern Saskatchewan.
Symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea, and vomiting followed by shortness of breath and respiratory failure. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare but usually severe disease that can lead to death.
“Seek medical attention immediately if you develop a fever, muscle aches, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of exposure to mouse-infested areas,” Saskatchewan’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Denise Werker said.
Hantavirus is transmitted by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice.
“People should be aware of mouse droppings and nesting materials when cleaning buildings,” Werker said. “Take precautions to prevent direct contact and inhalation of particles that may be contaminated.”
When cleaning rodent-infested areas, people are advised to:
•Ventilate the building by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
•Use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves;
•Wear goggles and a filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings in a confined space;
•Dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth;
•Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing;
•Steam clean, shampoo, or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant, or a mixture of bleach and water; and
•Wash clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.
Exposure to hantavirus can also be reduced by:
•Blocking openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
•Storing human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly fitted lids; and
•Moving woodpiles or other hiding places away from your home.
There have been 30 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in Saskatchewan since 1994, 10 of which resulted in death.
For more information about hantavirus and how to prevent infection, visit the Ministry of Health’s website at www.health.gov.sk.ca/hantavirus and HealthLine Online at www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.