Health Service Region 1 News Hantavirus Precautions

Department of State Health Services

April 7, 2005

Now that the weather is warming up, and the urge to launch into spring-cleaning is upon us, people need to protect themselves from exposure to hantaviruses.  The wet, relatively mild winter may result in an increase in the rodents that carry the Sin nombre virus, which can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).  As outbuildings, garages and barns are cleaned out this spring, take precautions to reduce the risk of becoming an HPS case.

Rodents excrete the virus in their urine and feces.  Human exposure usually takes place when dust is stirred up and inhaled, or contaminates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.  Therefore, protection centers on reducing the amount of virus that may become airborne, and avoiding mucous membrane contact or inhalation of the contaminated dust particles. 

Enclosed areas should be aired out first.  This may help reduce the concentration of the virus in the air.  Surfaces contaminated by rodent wastes should be sprayed with a 10% bleach solution, or a commercial product that is capable of killing hantaviruses.  Do not disturb the sprayed area for at least 30 minutes.  This will allow the chemical to kill any virus that may be present.  Just before sweeping up the debris, spray the bleach solution or commercial product a second time, then clean the area while the dust is damp.

An N-95, or HEPA filtration mask is highly recommended, as are goggles and gloves.  Once an area has been cleaned, steps should be taken to rodent-proof it.  Seal all holes in the walls and floors with material that will prevent re-entry by the rodents.  Eliminate rodent harborage by moving woodpiles, or other material that is stored by buildings.  Yard areas should be kept free of tall grass and weeds.  Do not leave pet food, or animal feed out at night.  Use rodent traps or poisons to keep the rodent population at a minimal level.

For additional information, please check the following web site:


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Last updated June 7, 2010