Hantavirus can result in serious and even fatal disease. During the first decade after which hantavirus was recognized in the United States, more than 600 people contracted the virus and over a third of these individuals died. You need to understand the basics of hantavirus. In addition, you need to know the tactics to employ to protect yourself from hantavirus. By understanding these basics, you place yourself in the best possible position to avoid infection by hantavirus.
Hantavirus can be found in mouse and rat droppings. Rodents transmit the virus, although they do not become ill because of it.
Hantavirus is most often transmitted to humans through mouse and rat droppings and urine. Dried mouse and rat droppings and urine can prove to be particularly hazardous. Dried mouse and rat droppings crumble easily. Dried urine turns to dust. Both dried feces and urine can end up airborne. Absent appropriate protection, the dust can be inhaled. If the dried droppings or urine are contaminated with hantavirus, a person can become infected by inhaling the dust.
Upon infection with hantavirus, a person can end up with what is known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Within a fairly short period of time, this syndrome can result in the capillaries of the lungs hemorrhaging. Blood flows into the lungs. If the process doesn’t stop, an individual can end up dying. This occurs because the lungs and then other organs (particularly the heart) begin to deteriorate.
There is no anti-virus available to treat a hantavirus infection, including hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The course of treatment utilized is placing a person diagnosed with the syndrome on a ventilator in the ICU.
Strategies to Protect Yourself from Hantavirus Infection
You need to be aware of specific strategies that can assist in protecting you against hantavirus infection. It is crucial to focus on employing these strategies as necessary to prevent hantavirus infection
Avoid At-Risk Activities
There are a set of activities that put you at higher risk of being exposed to hantavirus. One way to protect yourself from hantavirus is to avoid this activities that expose you to a higher risk.
These activities are:
- Dry sweeping a space that is not often used
- Using an air blower in a space that tis not often used
- Working in a barn or another out-building
- Spending time in or otherwise occupying a space that has been empty for a more extended period of time
- Using bare hands to handle grain that could be contaminated with mouse or rat droppings
- Hiking in rodent-infested areas
- Camping in rodent-infested areas
Even if you elect to engage in some of these activities, there are safety protocols that you can employ that at least lower the risk of exposure to hantavirus. On this list are certain activities that you simply should not undertake. For example, you shouldn’t dry sweep a space that is not regularly utilized.
Protect Your Home or Business
Another vital set of steps that you need to take to protect yourself from hantavirus focus on your home. You can take specific steps that can stop that carry the hantavirus from entering your home, business, or other location. These steps are:
- Seal all holes large enough for a rodent to enter (bear in mind a mouse can enter through a hole the size of a dime)
- Cover or pick up pet food dishes when not in use
- Store pet food in sealed containers
- Cover trash cans with rodent-proof lids
- Use traps to capture rodents when necessary
- Eliminate trash, woodpiles, old cars, and other debris where rats and mice may live
- Store firewood at least 100 feet from buildings
- Store hay at least the same distance from buildings
- Keep grass appropriately cut within 100 feet of buildings
- Keep bushes trimmed within the same distance from buildings
Personal Protective Equipment
If you elect to undertake mouse or rat droppings cleanup on your own, you must have appropriate personal protective equipment. Suitable personal protective equipment needed to for mouse and rat droppings cleanup include:
- Shoe covering
- Hair covering
- Smock or apron
Because of the manner in which hantavirus is spread via dried mouse and rat droppings as discussed previously, the respirator is crucial. A face mask is inadequate for that purpose.
When it comes to gloves, shoe covering, hair covering, and a smock or apron, these should all be disposable. These items can become contaminated when cleaning up mouse and rat droppings. You do not want to expose others to that contamination or drag that contamination into another location.