Living in a rural area puts you in danger of being exposed to hantavirus, but you can reduce the risk:
- Take steps to reduce the rodent population, but don’t kill their natural predators.
- Keep pet food and horse feed in plastic rodent-proof containers. Reduce potential nesting sites by keeping your property clean and woodpiles 100 feet away from the house.
- Guard your home by setting traps, sealing possible entrances, and securing food sources. Take action if droppings are spotted.
- Dampen droppings, nests or carcasses with diluted bleach in a 1:10 ratio and wait 10 minutes for the solution to take effect. Use disposable gloves, and dispose of waste and carcasses in a double plastic bag or by burning.
- Before cleaning a building which may have housed mice, open the doors and windows and air it out for at least 30 minutes both before and after disinfecting for cleanup. Dampen droppings, nests or carcasses with bleach solution, damp mop, and NEVER sweep or vacuum.
- Wear an appropriate mask (dust masks don’t offer enough protection) such as the NIOSH-approved 100 series filters, or a respirator with P100 cartridges. An N95 mask may also be used, and are commonly sold in pharmacies and used in influenza outbreaks. Wear goggles and full clothing to reduce skin exposure.
- After cleanup is complete, dispose of gloves and mask, and wash goggles with hot, soapy water. Soiled clothing should be removed immediately and washed in hot, soapy water before being dried thoroughly.
- Talk to your family and remind them to take precautions. Learn the symptoms and, if in doubt, seek medical attention and mention possible hantavirus exposure.