With spring underway, residents are reminded to play close attention when cleaning enclosed buildings to avoid being exposed to, the potentially fatal illness, hantavirus. 
 
“You can get hantavirus by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice,”said Dr. Denise Werker, Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer. “Hantavirus can cause a rare, but potentially fatal lung illness knows as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.”
 
Common places some may contract the illness include grain bins, sheds, barns, garages, trailers, cottages, homes, farm equipment and vehicles. 
 
Those who have come into contact with the virus will likely start to notice symptoms within one to six weeks of exposure and include: fever; muscle aches; cough; headaches; nausea and vomiting. The Ministry of Health advises individuals to seek medical attention immediately if you have a cough, fever and shortness of breath.
 
To avoid exposure to hantavirus, be aware of mouse dropping and nesting materials and take the following precautions when cleaning infested areas. 
  • 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 well-fitting N-95 type 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.
Also, take steps to reduce rodent infestations:
  • Block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
  • Store human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly-fitted lids; and
  • Move woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.
The risk of contracting hantavirus infection is currently low in Saskatchewan.  However, deer mice are present throughout the province and the risk will increase as the weather continues to warm up and people resume seasonal activities.

As of December 31, 2018, there have been 32 people with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in Saskatchewan since 1994; 10 of those cases were fatal.

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