Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health is reminding residents to take precautions against hantavirus while taking care of spring cleaning.
People are most often exposed to hantavirus when cleaning up enclosed spaces after the winter. Deer mice, which carry the virus, tend to winter in spaces such as barns, sheds, grain bins, cottages, farm vehicles and garages.
“You can get infected by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice,” explained Dr. Denise Werker, the Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer for the province. “Hantavirus can cause a rare, but potentially fatal lung illness known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.”
When cleaning up enclosed spaces after the winter, where deer mice may have been staying to escape the cold, it is best to ventilate the building for at least 30 minutes before cleaning.
Use wet mopping methods, and wear goggles and a filter mask when cleaning areas with droppings. It is also recommended to use a bleach disinfectant when cleaning those areas.
For upholstered furniture, it is recommended to steam clean, shampoo or spray the furniture and was clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.
Symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome usually start to show one to six weeks after exposure. They include fever, muscle aches, coughs, headaches and nausea. Severe symptoms can be life-threatening.
It is recommended to seek urgent medical attention if you have a cough, fever and shortness of breath.
There have been 32 cases of hantavirus in Saskatchewan since 1994. Of those cases, 10 have been fatal.