RAPID CITY, S.D. — As the summer season rolls in, many people will begin cleaning cabins, sheds, and other outbuildings that have been closed-up for winter – all places where someone could be exposed to Hantavirus.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a potentially deadly viral infection that causes the lungs to fill with fluid and can cause respiratory failure. The virus is shed by infected rodents in their urine, droppings, and saliva and becomes airborne when stirred up. It is not contagious person-to-person.
It was first detected in the Four Corners region (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona) in 1993. Approximately 640 cases have been reported nationwide since then, with 15 of those in South Dakota. 69% of South Dakota cases were reported East River.
There is no specific treatment for HPS. Symptoms usually present within two weeks of exposure and include fatigue, fever (101-104 degrees), and muscle aches. Roughly half of people infected with HPS will also develop headaches, dizziness, chills, and gastrointestinal problems. People with HPS are often hospitalized, and many require a breathing machine and/or oxygen therapy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified four types of rodents that carry Hantavirus: the cotton rat, white-footed mouse, rice rat, and deer mouse. Deer mice and white-footed mice are commonly found in South Dakota.
Rodent control in and around the home is the best way to mitigate the risk of Hantavirus.
Tips to avoid Hantavirus infection when cleaning an area with signs of rodent infestation include:
- Ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for 30 minutes before you start cleaning. Wear gloves and use disinfectant when cleaning up dead rodents or their urine, droppings and nests.
- Saturate the material with disinfectant. Let it soak per the manufacturer’s instructions on the label before removal.
- Mop floors, clean counter tops, cabinets and drawers with disinfectant.
- Use a commercial disinfectant registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and follow the label instructions or use a bleach solution made with one part bleach and nine parts water (10% solution).
- Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming up droppings, urine or nesting materials.
- Do not let children play in crawl spaces or vacant buildings where rodents may be present.
Hantavirus has a 38% mortality rate – so if you’ve been around rodents and have symptoms of fever, deep muscle aches, and severe shortness of breath – see your doctor immediately, and don’t forget to mention that you’ve been around rodents.