Health officials are reminding Saskatchewan residents to take precautions against hantavirus as the weather warms up.

Deer mouse Image/CDC
Deer mouse

Hantavirus is transmitted by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice.  Initial symptoms of hantavirus infection include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

“Symptoms then get worse and lead to a severe and often fatal lung disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome,” Saskatchewan’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Denise Werker said.  “If you develop a fever, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of potential exposure to mouse-infested areas, seek medical attention immediately.”

The risk of contracting hantavirus infection is currently low in Saskatchewan.  However, deer mice are present throughout the province and the risk will increase as the weather continues to warm up and people resume seasonal activities.

“It’s important to take appropriate precautions against exposure to hantavirus, whether you’re out for recreation or working on the farm cleaning buildings, moving woodpiles, handling grain or cleaning farm equipment,” Rural and Remote Health Minister Greg Ottenbreit said.  “We’re all looking forward to a great Saskatchewan summer, but taking adequate safety measures can go a long way when getting cottages, recreational vehicles or boats ready for use.”

When cleaning rodent-infested areas people should:

  • Ventilate the building by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
  • Use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves;
  • Wear goggles and a filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings in a confined space;
  • Dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth;
  • Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing;
  • Steam clean, shampoo, or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant, or a mixture of bleach and water; and
  • Wash clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.

You can also reduce exposure to hantavirus by:

  • Blocking openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
  • Storing human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly-fitted lids; and
  • Moving woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.

There have been 30 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in Saskatchewan since 1994, 10 of which resulted in death.

Related: Montana reports 1st hantavirus case of 2015 in Missoula County