The deer mouse is a rodent native to North America.

Got mice? Take precautions against hantavirus

Spring clean safely to avoid this serious illness by utilizing bleach-water mixture

May 23, 2024

Hantavirus is a rare, life-threatening infection that is transmitted when humans breathe in particles from deer mice urine, droppings, or saliva. Take caution when “spring cleaning” to avoid aerosolizing these particles if you see evidence of mice.

Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California are hot spots for infected mice. While not all deer mice are infected, it is always important to take precautions.

“It’s important that if you have been around rodents and have symptoms of fever, deep muscle aches, and severe shortness of breath, that you see your doctor immediately,” said Garfield County Public Health Nurse Theresa Carey. “Be sure to tell your physician you have been around rodents.”

Incubation for the illness can be between 1 and 5 weeks. Hantavirus can be deadly, with a case fatality rate of 36 percent.

There is no specific treatment, cure, or vaccine for hantavirus infection. However, individuals who recognize the symptoms and seek prompt medical treatment may have a better chance of recovery.

To avoid exposure, do not sweep or vacuum areas where rodents have been present. Instead, wear protective gloves and wet down the areas with a bleach and water solution (one part bleach to nine parts water). Keep the area wet for five minutes before beginning cleanup. Wipe up and dispose of all contaminated material. When disposing of dead rodents, always use gloves and place rodents in sealed plastic bags before placing in the trash.

Homes can be rodent proofed by eliminating food sources and removing abandoned vehicles, brush, wood, and junk piles where rodents may hide. Plug holes and other mouse entryways. Use traps, poisons, or if necessary, hire a professional exterminator. Keep indoor areas clean and store food in rodent-proof containers – this includes pet, and livestock food. Store firewood at least 100 feet from the house and keep vegetation around the house well-trimmed.

For more hantavirus information, contact Garfield County Public Health at 970-625-5200 or 970-945-6614. Garfield County Public Health information is provided online on the public health website.