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By Gig Conaughton, County of San Diego Communications Office

August 2, 2019 (Warner Springs) - A deer mouse trapped during routine monitoring in Warner Springs has tested positive for the potentially deadly hantavirus, leading County officials to remind people they should never sweep up or vacuum up after rodents if they find them in homes, garages, sheds and cabins.

Hantavirus is not uncommon in San Diego County. However, people are not likely to be exposed to it so long as they keep wild rodents out of their living spaces and structures.

Wild rodents generally live away from people, but if people do find them in homes or garages or sheds, and if they must clean up after them, they should always use “wet cleaning methods,” so they don’t stir the virus into the air where people can breathe it in and become sick.

Wild rodents, wild mice in particular, are the main carriers of hantavirus. They can shed the virus in their urine, feces and saliva. That infected matter can then dry out, become airborne and be inhaled if people sweep or vacuum to clean up rodent droppings and nests.

Instead, if people must clean up after rodents, they should “wet clean”: ventilate the areas, use bleach and water solutions or disinfectants, and use rubber gloves and plastic bags.

Hantavirus can cause deadly infections in people and there is no vaccine or cure.

Here are tips for people to keep them from being exposed to wild rodents and hantavirus, and how to use wet-cleaning methods:

Avoid Exposure to Hantavirus

  • Seal up all external holes in homes, garages and sheds larger than a dime to keep rodents from getting in.
  • Eliminate rodent infestations immediately.
  • Avoid rodent-infested areas and do not stir up dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent droppings and urine.
  • Clean up rodent droppings and urine using the wet cleaning method described below.

Use "Wet cleaning" Methods to Prevent Inhaling the Virus

  • Do not sweep or vacuum infested areas.
  • Ventilate affected area by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.
  • Use rubber gloves. Spray a 10 percent bleach solution or other disinfectants onto dead rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps, and surrounding areas and let the disinfectant stand for at least 15 minutes before cleaning.
  • Clean with a sponge or a mop.
  • Place disinfected rodents and debris into two plastic bags, seal them and discard in the trash.
  • Wash gloves in a bleach solution, then soap and water, and dispose of them using the same double-bag method.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

For more information, contact the County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) at (858) 694-2888 or visit the DEH hantavirus web page.

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