Hantavirus and plague are two illnesses to watch for as residents begin spring cleaning projects. Precautions are 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.


  • Do not sweep or vacuum mouse urine, droppings, or nests. This will cause virus particles to go into the air, where they can be breathed in.
  • Open doors or windows to provide good ventilation for 30 to 60 minutes before cleaning out structures.
  • To avoid stirring up dust, thoroughly wet down areas with a mixture of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water then remove material containing the mouse droppings. Wear gloves.
  • Rodent-proof buildings by plugging holes or other mouse entryways. 
  • In rural areas, place traps for year-round rodent control 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 a bacteria carried by fleas that live on rodents such as mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and prairie dogs. The 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. 

If you develop symptoms after a known contact with mouse droppings or a dead animal, contact your doctor and mention your recent activities that may have increased your risk of developing one of these diseases.