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Take precautions against Hantavirus, health ministry

With spring clean-up underway, residents are being reminded to take precautions against Hantavirus when cleaning enclosed buildings or vehicles, say health officials.

The infection is caused by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice. It can cause a rare, but potentially fatal lung disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

“Particles can become airborne after sweeping, but it’s also possible to get the virus by touching something that has been contaminated, and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes,” says Saskatchewan’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Julie Kryzanowski.

Symptoms usually start within one to six weeks of exposure. They include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Some people may develop severe symptoms that can be life threatening.

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Officials urge the following precautions while cleaning:

  • Ventilate the building by opening doors and windows, and then leave the area for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
  • Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing;
  • Use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves;
  • Wear goggles and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings;
  • Dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth;
  • Steam clean, shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water; and
  • Wash exposed clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water

Some preventative recommendations to reduce rodent infestations include:

  • Block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
  • Store human and animal food, water and garbage in pest-proof/resistant containers with tightly fitted lids; and
  • Move woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home

More information on Hantavirus may be found on the government’s website.

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