With the weather warming up and critters roaming again, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health is encouraging hantavirus precautions.
The disease is found in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice. It can be caught by accidentally breathing in these particles, and can lead to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, a lung illness that can be severe or even fatal in some cases.
While the risk of catching Hantavirus in Saskatchewan remains low, many people will be cleaning up enclosed buildings, or equipment and vehicles that have been in storage for the winter, where these different bodily fluids can be found.
Steps people can take to avoid Hantavirus include ventilating the room by opening windows or doors half an hour before cleaning and wearing gear like gloves, goggles and an N95 filter mask.
When it comes to cleaning, it’s recommended people use wet cleaning methods, along with bleach, to clean hard surfaces. Steam clean furniture with shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water. Clothes and bedding should be washed with detergent in hot water.
People can also avoid mice from getting into their property at all by blocking openings that might allow rodents to enter a building, storing food, water or garbage in tightly lidded containers and moving woodpiles or other hiding spots for mice away from their buildings.
Symptoms of hantavirus usually start within one to six weeks of exposure. They can include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
Some people develop severe symptoms that can be life-threatening. The MOH says to seek medical attention immediately if you develop the three symptoms of a cough, fever and shortness of breath.
Between 1994 and 2020, 36 cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome have been reported in Saskatchewan and 12 of those cases were fatal.