Mice test positive for hantavirus

hantavirusSAN DIEGO — Two mice trapped recently in Campo and Poway tested positive for the potentially deadly hantavirus, prompting health officials Friday to urge residents to take measures to keep their homes rodent-free.

Typically, those infected by the virus initially experience flu-like symptoms, but the disease’s progression may result in a life-threatening lung condition, according to the county Department of Environmental Health.

Rodents rarely pose a health threat if they remain in the wild and outside of homes, and the common house mouse — the species most likely to be found in urban areas — does not transmit hantavirus.

Humans may come into contact with infected rodents in rural areas or urban canyons, DEH officials said.

“The best way to make sure you don’t get exposed is to keep rodents out of your house, don’t come in contact with them, (and) seal up any holes larger than a dime,” county Environmental Health Director Jack Miller said. “If you do find rodent infestations, remember not to sweep or vacuum up, because hantavirus is an airborne disease. Use wet-cleaning methods to protect yourself.”

Information on cleaning procedures is available online at sdcounty.ca.gov/deh/pests/hantavirus.html.

Wild rodents, most notably deer mice, can carry hantavirus and shed it through their saliva, urine and feces. People can breathe in the virus if infected dust from droppings and nesting materials is stirred up. The recently trapped infected rodents are a California mouse and a western harvest mouse.

There is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which proves fatal for 38 percent of those who get it, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who contract the disease develop flu-like symptoms about one to five weeks after exposure, followed by more serious problems, including breathing difficulties, according to the DEH.