Beware of Hantavirus Danger During Spring Cleaning and Beyond

April 25, 2024

Beware of Hantavirus Danger During Spring Cleaning and Beyond

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) warns a serious infection spread by mice known as hantavirus, remains a public health threat.

Courtney Tillman, a WDH epidemiologist, says, “Though Wyoming doesn’t see many hantavirus cases, it certainly can be a serious illness. About 40 percent of infections will lead to death.”

Eighteen human hantavirus cases, including seven that resulted in death, have been reported in Wyoming since 1999.

Sick mice can get into garages, campers, old cars, cabins and barns. They spread hantavirus through pee, poop and spit. “If you’re entering and cleaning a place that’s been closed up for a period of time, it’s important to be aware of the risk,” Tillman said.

“People can become seriously ill if they breathe in particles created when contaminated, dried materials are disturbed,” Tillman said. “You can also get sick if the virus touches broken skin or if you swallow it or get bitten.”

Tillman advised before cleaning a place that’s been closed and unoccupied for a long time, open doors and windows for 30 minutes to air out the space. “If it’s really dirty, dusty or full of mice, wear extra protective gear like gloves, coveralls, shoe covers and special masks known as respirators or N95s,” she said.

Steps to help prevent infection include:

  • Wear rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves while cleaning.
  • Spray rodent pee and poop with a disinfectant or bleach solution until thoroughly soaked. Combining 1 ½ cups of household bleach with 1 gallon of water is a good choice.
  • Do not vacuum or sweep mouse pee, poop, nesting materials or contaminated surfaces. Instead, use wet-cleaning methods such as mopping or wiping.
  • Use a paper towel (while wearing gloves) to pick up mouse pee and poop.
  • After droppings and urine have been removed, disinfect items that might have been contaminated.
  • Stop mice from coming back by sealing up holes or gaps in doors, floors, and walls and keeping outdoor areas clean and free of debris that may attract mice.