Sunday, April 16, 2017

Beware of stirring up dust where deer mice may have been; could contain a rare but deadly virus; spray interiors with bleach solution

Spring is time for cleaning, and for outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. But it's also time to "beware of a rare but deadly virus" that "kills up to 40 percent of people who become infected," Lena H. Sun reports for The Washington Post.

Deer mice spread hantavirus through dust. (CDC photo)
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS, is spread mostly by deer mice, which live in woodland areas and deserts and are found throughout Kentucky and adjoining states, and most of North America. "People get the disease by breathing in hantavirus when dust from rodents’ dried urine, saliva and droppings is stirred up in the air, which can happen in houses, garages and cabins, especially while cleaning," Sun reports. "People can also get it by touching mouse urine, droppings or nesting materials that contain the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth."

HPS has "no specific treatment, cure or vaccine," Sun writes, "but if infected individuals are recognized early and receive medical attention in an intensive care unit, where they can be given oxygen therapy, they may have a better chance of recovery."

Annabelle de St. Maurice, an epidemiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges people to avoid sweeping or vacuuming mouse droppings, which "makes it more likely that someone will inhale or ingest the dust that brings virus particles into the air," Sun notes. "Instead, the CDC recommends spraying the area with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water and letting it soak for five minutes before cleaning with gloves and paper towels."

Certain jobs have more risk of HPS: farmers, "electricians, carpenters, roofers, pest-control personnel and others who work in construction; forestry and outdoor recreation jobs; oil drilling; and the cleaning industry, especially people who go into areas where there are abandoned buildings or cars that have been left outside, or open buildings that had been previously closed, such as summer cabins.," Sun reports.

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