Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
In August 2007, the Benton-Franklin Health District received three reports of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a serious respiratory disease spread by mice. As of August 15th, 2007, a total of five cases of the rare disease have been reported in our district. Hantavirus is carried by deer mice and can cause the serious, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease when spread to people. The virus can infect people when they inhale dirt and dust contaminated with mouse urine or droppings, such as when people stir up dust while working in, or cleaning out, storage units and sheds. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is not contagious person-to-person.
Symptoms of hantavirus infection begin with fever, severe body aches, headache, vomiting, and tiredness. Symptoms generally begin from one week to five weeks after exposure to mice droppings and may progress to severe respiratory distress, including shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Anyone ill with these symptoms should tell their health care provider if they’ve had exposure to deer mice or rodent-infested environments. Although there is no cure for the disease, early supportive treatment can help recovery.
Because there is not a cure for the disease, prevention is key to avoiding hantavirus infection.
Before a shed, cabin, or other area with potential mouse droppings is cleaned, the structure should be ventilated thoroughly by opening the windows and doors for at least an hour before cleaning begins.
Additional precautions to provide protection against hantavirus include:
Deer Mouse Description
The deer mouse is about six inches long from the nose to the tip of its tail. It is grayish to light brown on top, with a white belly, large ears, and a furry tail that is white on the underside. They have large ears relative to their head size. Unlike deer mice, house mice are all gray and have small ears and are not associated with this illness.
Washington State Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
BFHD Hantavirus Poster
Printable Resources at the CDC
"Facts About Hantavirus" Brochure
"Información sobre los Hantavirus: Lo que Usted Debe Saber para Prevenir la Enfermedad del Síndrome Pulmonar por Hantavirus" Brochure
Campers and Hikers Brochure