The Saskatchewan Government wants to remind residents to take precautions against hantavirus as spring cleaning starts across the province, especially while cleaning enclosed buildings or vehicles. 

Hantavirus infections are caused by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice. The infection can cause a rare, but potentially fatal lung disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

"Exposure most often occurs when cleaning up sheds, barns, garages, cabins, or vehicles after winter," Saskatchewan's Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Julie Kryzanowski said. "Particles can become airborne after sweeping, but it's also possible to get the virus by touching something that has been contaminated, and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes."

The Government states symptoms usually start within one to six weeks of exposure, and can include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting. 

Some people can develop severe symptoms that can be life-threatening. The Government recommends seeking medical attention immediately if you have a cough, fever, and shortness of breath. 

The Saskatchewan Government asks the public to take the following precautions when cleaning rodent-infested areas:

  • ventilate the building by opening doors and windows, and then leave the area for at least 30 minutes before cleaning
  • avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing;
  • use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves
  • wear goggles and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings
  • dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth
  • steam clean, shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water
  • wash exposed clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.

It also presented a few tips to reduce rodent infestation:

  • block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building
  • store human and animal food, water and garbage in pest-proof/resistant containers with tightly-fitted lids
  • move woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.

Between 1994 and 2021, 36 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have been reported in Saskatchewan; 12 of those cases were fatal, states the Government.