By Gig Conaughton, County of San Diego Communications Office
Three deer mice collected in routine monitoring in Boulevard have tested positive for the potentially deadly hantavirus, County Vector Control said this week.
County officials said it is not uncommon to find hantavirus in wild mice throughout the county, but it is generally unlikely for people to come into contact with hantavirus if they keep wild rodents out of their homes, sheds, garages and workplaces.
However, especially with the arrival of spring cleaning season, Vector Control officials urged people to protect themselves if they find wild rodents living in their homes, sheds and garages.
Specifically, officials said people should remember to never sweep up or vacuum rodent nests or droppings. Instead, people should use “wet-cleaning” methods if they must clean up after rodents: wearing gloves, spraying dead rodents, droppings, nests and surrounding areas with bleach solutions, cleaning with sponges and mops, double-bagging and sealing up debris.
Wild rodents, particularly mice, are the main carriers of hantavirus. Hantavirus can cause deadly infections in people and there is no vaccine or cure.
However, people have little chance of being exposed to hantavirus because wild rodents usually live in undeveloped areas and do not typically live in the same spaces as humans.
Here are some tips to prevent being exposed to 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.
•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.
Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office.