The Washoe County Health Department has announced that a second Washoe County resident has contracted hantavirus and died. This is the second fatal case of hantavirus since 2017 and reaffirms the seriousness of outbreak.
“Although hantavirus is extremely rare, when it does occur, the disease can be fatal,” said Dr. Randall Todd, Director of the Washoe County Health District Epidemiology and Public Health Preparedness Division. On average, 38 percent of hantavirus cases are fatal.
Infected rodents, most commonly deer mice, shed the virus in their droppings, urine, and saliva. Hantavirus is mainly transmitted to people when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus. (Stay out of dirty garages with mouse holes.)
It may also be transmitted if a person touches anything contaminated with droppings, urine, or saliva and then touches their nose or mouth.
This typically occurs when working or recreating in areas where mouse droppings, urine, or saliva may have collected or when cleaning up rodent droppings or nesting material. Hikers and campers may be at higher risk if they are in areas that are common for heavy rodent infestation such as old cabins, stables, and barns. Scientists also suspect that people can become sick if they eat food contaminated by droppings, urine, or saliva from an infected rodent.
The Health District urges everyone to take precautions when entering spaces where mice may have been, such as storage places, garages, sheds, cabins and barns. Since it is hard to tell if a rodent carries hantavirus, it is best to avoid all wild mice and rats and to safely clean up any rodent urine, droppings, or nests in your home.
Listed below are specific guidelines to follow when cleaning in areas with rodent activity:
— Do not sweep or vacuum the area with urine, droppings, or nesting material.
— A solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water should be used when cleaning urine and/or droppings. Let it set for 5 minutes before cleaning the area.
— Wear gloves (i.e., latex, vinyl, rubber) and a face mask to avoid touching or breathing in viral particles.
— Identify areas where mice are getting in and set traps.
— Identify and plug openings that may allow rodents entry. A deer mouse can fit through an opening the size of a nickel. Plug holes using steel wool and put caulk around the steel wool to keep in in place.