hanta virus under microscope
Mice have tested positive for the hanta virus in Julian.

A brush mouse collected in routine monitoring in Julian has tested positive for the potentially deadly hantavirus, prompting County officials to remind people to never sweep or vacuum up after rodents if they find them in their living spaces.

Hantavirus is not uncommon in San Diego County. However, people are unlikely to be exposed to hantavirus if they keep wild rodents out of homes, garages, sheds and other living spaces and structures.

Wild rodents, particularly wild mice, are the main carriers of hantavirus. They shed the virus through their saliva, urine and feces. When that matter dries and is stirred into the air, people can inhale it and be exposed to the virus.

Because of that, Vector Control officials said people should never sweep or vacuum up rodent droppings so they don’t stir hantavirus into the air where it can be breathed in and make people sick.

Instead, if people must clean up after rodents, they should “wet clean”: ventilate the areas, use bleach and water solutions or disinfectants, and use rubber gloves and plastic bags.

Brush mouse, Peromyscus boylii

Wild rodents generally live away from people, but can seek shelter in homes, garages and sheds.

Hantavirus can cause deadly infections in people and there is no vaccine or cure.

Here are tips for people to keep them from being exposed to wild rodents and hantavirus, and how to use wet-cleaning methods:

Avoid Exposure to Hantavirus

  • Seal up all external holes in homes, garages and sheds larger than a dime to keep rodents from getting in.
  • Eliminate rodent infestations immediately.
  • Avoid rodent-infested areas and do not stir up dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent droppings and urine.
  • Clean up rodent droppings and urine using the wet cleaning method described below.

Use “Wet-cleaning” Methods to Prevent Inhaling the Virus

  • Do not sweep or vacuum infested areas.
  • Ventilate affected area by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.
  • Use rubber gloves. Spray a 10 percent bleach solution or other disinfectants onto dead rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps, and surrounding areas and let the disinfectant stand for at least 15 minutes before cleaning.
  • Clean with a sponge or a mop that has been soaked in disinfectant.
  • Place disinfected rodents and debris into two plastic bags, seal them and discard in the trash.
  • Wash gloves in a bleach solution, then soap and water, and dispose of them using the same double-bag method.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

For more information, contact the County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) at (858) 694-2888 or visit the DEH hantavirus web page.

– County News Service

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