8/5/2014 5:06:00 PM Be aware of hantavirus awareness in Adams County
Summertime is here and Adams County residents have begun summer cleaning, harvest and many outdoor activities. The Adams County Health Department wants to take this opportunity to remind everyone to be aware of the risk of encountering mice, their nests and their droppings. Deer mice have the ability to carry hantavirus and this disease can be transmitted to humans under certain conditions. If a human is exposed to hantavirus while cleaning up mice droppings or a nest, they could develop symptoms and become sick with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare illness caused by a virus in the urine, droppings and saliva of infected rodents. In Washington state, deer mice are the only carrier of the virus. In Washington, about 14 percent of more than 1,100 tested deer mice have been infected with the virus. Since infected deer mice live throughout Adams County, human cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome can occur in any part of the county. Not all deer mice carry the virus and the numbers vary based on environmental conditions. Hantavirus cases tend to increase when the weather warms up and more rain produces bumper crops of vegetation the mice eat. There have been 45 cases reported in Washington state. Each year, Washington has one to five confirmed hantavirus cases. Most of these cases occur in eastern Washington. People can become sick with hantavirus by breathing in the air particles stirred up from rodent droppings or nests; there is no evidence the virus is spread person-to-person. The greatest risk occurs when people enter enclosed areas with rodent infestation and poor air circulation, such as cabins, sheds and barns. Illness usually begins one to six weeks after a person is exposed. Early signs include fever, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people have headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or stomach pain. Hantavirus infection is rare but can be fatal in about one out of every three cases. The Adams County Health Department recommends the following when cleaning areas where deer mice and other rodents may live: Open all doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning. Wear gloves and a mask to protect from exposure. Do not use vacuums, brooms, dusters or anything else that can stir up contaminated dust. Instead: *Thoroughly wet contaminated areas with a household disinfectant or bleach solution (1½ cups of bleach per 1 gallon of water). *Let soak for at least 10 minutes. *Using a damp towel, clean up the material, then mop or sponge the area with bleach solution or household disinfectant. *Spray dead rodents, nesting materials and feces with disinfectant until soaked and double-bag along with all cleaning material. *Disinfect gloves before taking them off and thoroughly wash hands afterward. While these steps will minimize the risk of exposure, the best way to prevent Hantavirus is to keep rodents out of your home, vacation place, workplace, campsite and outbuildings. For more information on hantavirus and HPS, contact our office at (509) 488-2031 or go to www.cdc.gov/hantavirus.