While the disease does not spread from person to person it can be picked up, usually inhaled, in dust or mist particles where mouse droppings or urine are present. The problem is that urine is fairly invisible without a blacklight detector and even the droppings are often wide spread.
Mice are so small and agile that they often occur in garages, crawlspaces beneath flooring and attics. Sometimes they do get into our living spaces such as bedrooms and kitchens as well.
Mice can climb and squeeze almost anywhere. Unlike rats, which urinate more or less at designated locations, mice “dribble” as they go potentially leaving many spots that could be contaminated with hantavirus.
KOMO news reported that this was the first case of hantavirus in King county in 14 years. This shows how rare a disease this is, Cascade Pest Control originally began preparing for an outbreak of hantavirus in 1993 when a number of people died in the four-corner region of the southwest United States. As it turned out few cases ever occurred in Washington state and it appeared that eastern Washington, with all it’s drier land and deer mouse population would have most cases when they did show up. Cases of hantavirus in King county are rare and health officials are cautious now that two cases have occurred within months and within a local proximity.
The Washington State Department of health has a link for pest disease prevention-hantavirus.
Among their precautions listed are:
Keep rodents out of your home and workplace. Always take precautions when cleaning, sealing and trapping rodent-infested areas.
Seal up cracks and gaps in buildings that are larger than 1/4 inch including window and door sills, under sinks around the pipes, in foundations, attics and any rodent entry hole.
Trap indoor rats and mice with snap traps.
Remove rodent food sources. Keep food (including pet food) in rodent proof containers.
Clean up rodent infested areas:
– Wear rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves.
– Do not stir up dust by vacuuming, sweeping, or any other means.
– Thoroughly wet contaminated areas including trapped mice, droppings, and nests with a 10% hypochlorite (bleach) solution: Mix 1½ cups of household bleach in 1 gallon of water (or 1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Once everything is soaked for 10 minutes, remove all of the nest material, mice or droppings with damp towel and then mop or sponge the area with bleach solution.
– Steam clean or shampoo upholstered furniture and carpets with evidence of rodent exposure.
– Spray dead rodents with disinfectant and then double-bag along with all cleaning materials. Bury, burn, or throw out rodent in appropriate waste disposal system.
– Disinfect gloves with disinfectant or soap and water before taking them off.
– After taking off the clean gloves, thoroughly wash hands with soap and water (or use a waterless alcohol-based hand rub when soap is not available).