As spring approaches, residents should take precautions to avoid exposure to
hantavirus and plague, both rodent-borne illnesses.

Care is especially important while cleaning
homes, sheds, cabins, barns or other areas where mice or mouse droppings are
present. Both hantavirus and plague can be dangerous and deadly diseases. 

Hantavirus is caused by a virus
that is carried primarily by deer mice. The
infected rodents excrete the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. People
are infected by inhaling airborne particles of the virus or by direct contact
with rodents, their droppings or nests.


  • Open doors or
    windows to provide good ventilation for 30 to 60 minutes before cleaning out
  • Avoid stirring up dust by watering down areas with a mixture of 1
    part bleach and 10 parts water. 
  • Wear gloves. 
  • Rodent-proof
    buildings by plugging holes or other mouse entryways. 
  • In
    rural areas, conduct year-round rodent control using traps or poisons, or hire
    a professional exterminator. Don’t wait until the mouse population spikes. 
  • Keep
    indoor areas clean, especially kitchens. 
  • Store food in rodent-proof containers.
    This includes pet, livestock and bird food. 
  • Properly dispose of garbage in
    sealed containers.  

Plague is carried by fleas that live on
rodents such as mice, squirrels, chipmunks and prairie dogs. Their fleas can
jump onto dogs or cats, thus infecting those animals or carrying fleas into
your home.


  • Avoid
    handling dead animals. 
  • Keep
    your pets out of rodent burrows or from playing with dead animals. This
    includes keeping cats from hunting potentially sick rodents. 
  • Avoid
    feeding rodents; keep food, pet food and bird feed in rodent-proof containers. 
  • Talk
    to your veterinarian about flea control for your pets, and signs and symptoms
    of plague in your animals. 

Other zoonotic diseases to watch for are tularemia and rabies.

Tularemia is a bacterial disease that can affect humans and animals. Rabbits, hares and rodents are especially susceptible. Humans become infected through contact with infected animals, tick or deer fly bites, drinking contaminated water or inhaling contaminated dust.
Dogs and cats are also at risk of contracting tularemia. Pets with fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes or a tender abdomen should be seen by a veterinarian.
  • Wear insect repellent.
  • Do not touch dead animals or rodents. If you must handle one, wear gloves.
  • Avoid running over dead animals with a lawn mower.
  • Stay out of areas where wild rabbits or rodents are present.
  • Wear shoes in areas where rabbits have died.

Symptoms of tularemia vary based on the mode of infection. Fever is almost always present. Other symptoms can include skin ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, eye inflammation, sore throat, mouth ulcers, tonsillitis, cough, chest pain and difficulty breathing. 

Though the infection can be life-threatening, it is often treatable with antibiotics.
Rabies is a very serious disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of mammals. Rabies, which is caused by a virus, is usually a disease of animals but can spread to people. Untreated rabies is almost always fatal.
Rabies spreads when an animal with rabies bites another animal or person or when the saliva of infected animals gets into a wound, or the eyes, nose or mouth of another person or animal. Most of the recent human cases of rabies in the United States have been caused by bats. Any possible contact with bats should be taken seriously. 
  • Never approach an animal you don’t know, even if it appears friendly. 
  • Report any animal that behaves oddly to Mesa County Animal Services at 242-4646.
  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies.
  • Feed and provide water to your pets inside your home. Even empty bowls can attract wild or stray animals.
  • Do not let your pets roam freely. Keep them in a fenced yard or on a leash.
  • Keep your garbage secured. Open garbage will attract wild or stray animals.
  • Keep your chimney capped and repair holes in attics, cellars and porches to help keep out wild animals.

 For more information, go here or call 248-6969.