Dangerous Hantavirus Incidence Increases in Spring
As temperatures rise in much of the United States, public health officials are warning of a potentially deadly virus that is spread through contact with deer mouse droppings, dried urine and saliva, and nesting materials. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome—which is fatal in about 40 percent of cases—cases often increase in the spring, when people clean up their homes or properties or spend more time outdoors.
Deer mice live in woodland areas and deserts throughout North America and may nest in homes, garages, and cabins. People can contract hantavirus by breathing dust containing mouse debris that is stirred into the air—by sweeping or vacuuming, for example. The virus also can spread by touching the eyes, nose, or mouth after contact with mouse droppings, urine, saliva, or nesting materials.
There is no specific treatment for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, but people diagnosed and treated early in the course of the infection—with oxygen therapy in an intensive care unit—have better recovery rates. The virus is not spread from person to person. To reduce the risk of transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends spraying areas with visible mouse droppings or nesting material with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water, letting it soak for five minutes, and cleaning with paper towels (wear gloves).
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