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The Mesa County Health Department is warning residents to take precautions to avoid hantavirus as they begin spring cleaning projects and open cabins and other buildings after the winter.

Precautions are especially important while cleaning homes, sheds, cabins, barns or other areas where mice, or mouse droppings, are present.

Hantavirus can be a dangerous and deadly disease. It 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.

Precautions:

  • Open doors or windows to provide good ventilation for 30 to 60 minutes before cleaning out structures. Avoid stirring up dust by watering down areas with a mixture of one 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, including food for pets, livestock and birds. Properly dispose of garbage in sealed containers.
  • Remove rodent hiding places near your home, such as wood, junk and brush piles.
Hantavirus normally begins with fever, body aches, headache and vomiting. The symptoms begin from one to six weeks after exposure. 
Although no respiratory symptoms are present initially, the illness can quickly progress to respiratory distress within one to five days. People may have a dry cough and difficulty breathing, caused by their lungs filling with fluid. 
Prevention and precautionary measures are essential as no effective treatment exists for the disease. 

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