Hantavirus - Fact Sheet
What is hantavirus?
Hantaviruses are a family of viruses found in different parts of the world. They were first identified in the Southwestern United States (US) in 1993. Hantavirus infections are rare, however, sporadic cases have been reported. Scientists assume that rodents carry hantavirus in most parts of the US.
Where is the virus found?
The virus is believed to be carried by rodents such as mice.
How is hantavirus spread?
Infected rodents shed live virus in saliva, droppings, and urine. Humans are infected when they inhale microscopic particles that contain rodent urine or droppings. Inset bites and pets are not believed to play a role in hantavirus transmission. There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission.
Who can get hantavirus?
Anyone can potentially become infected if they have inhaled infected particles.
What are the symptoms?
Typical symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, cough, and headache. There is a potential for severe illness, however, many cases can be mild and never identified. After several days, respiratory problems worsen rapidly. The lungs may fill with fluid and victims may die of respiratory failure. If you are seriously ill with high fever and cough, consult a doctor right away.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Generally 1-2 weeks, but may range from a few days up to six weeks.
Is there any treatment?
There is no specific treatment for hantavirus. Physicians have been administering Ribavirin, an antiviral drug, experimentally to suspected victims.
What is the best way to prevent exposure to hantavirus?
Avoid contact with rodents. Since rodents are the primary means of transmitting theses viruses, eliminating contact with them is the best way to avoid infection. Also avoid contact with their droppings and urine. When cleaning up rodent droppings, wet them down first with a bleach solution and wear gloves.
RODENTS AND PREVENTION
What specifically should be done to clean up after rodents?
Dwellings with large amounts of rodent droppings should first be aired out while unoccupied. The key is to keep the droppings from getting into the air where they can be inhaled. That is how people have been exposed elsewhere in the US. The rodent droppings should be thoroughly wet down with a household disinfectant solution (consisting of detergent plus 1/12 cups of bleach for each gallon of water) to reduce formation of dust aerosols. An old spray bottle is ideal for applying the solution. Debris should then be WIPED UP and placed in double plastic bags for disposal, together with any cleanup materials such as paper towels, etc. DO NOT use vacuum cleaners or sweep with brooms, which will create dust in the air. Use of gloves, dust mist masks, long-sleeved clothing, and protective eye wear may help prevent personal exposure.
Rodent proofing measures should be applied to dwellings to prevent animal entry. Consult an exterminator or your local health department for additional information on rodent control.
Should I set out traps to catch the mice?
Yes, but use precautions. Wear gloves. If snap traps are used, that trap should be discarded along with the dead rodent r disinfected. Direct contact with the animal and its droppings should be avoided. Follow the precautions above. After eliminating rodents from a building, the conditions that attracted them there (e.g, food sources,overstuffed furniture, etc.) should be corrected.
Will the “fume bombs” sold over-the-counter kill the virus?
Probably not. The virus is best inactivated by contact with a liquid disinfectant such as the detergent and household bleach solution described above.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.