Some friends of mine recently had some problems with rats getting into some food they had stored in Mylar bags inside cardboard boxes. They lost a portion of their storage and had a mess to clean up. With the recent deaths in Yosemite from the hantavirus, this is a bit scary.
In a grid down situation rats and mice could become much more of a problem. Now they don’t all carry hantavirus, but you only need to encounter the wrong one. So I have gleaned some information of various government websites about how to avoid it. In the future with the help of a friend who is an exterminator I will post an article on eliminating rodents.
What are hantaviruses?
Hantaviruses are a group of viruses that may be carried by some rodents. Some hantaviruses can cause a rare but deadly disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The disease is called HPS for short.
What animals can give people hantaviruses?
Only some kinds of mice and rats can give people hantaviruses that cause HPS. In North America, they are the deer mouse, the white-footed mouse, the rice rat, and the cotton rat. However, not every deer mouse, white-footed mouse, rice rat, or cotton rat carries a hantavirus. Other rodents, such as house mice, roof rats, and Norway rats, have never been known to give people HPS. Since it is hard to tell if a mouse or a rat carries a hantavirus, it is best to avoid all wild mice and rats and to safely clean up any rodent urine, droppings, or nests in your home. Dogs and cats cannot give people hantavirus infections.
Who can get HPS?
.Any man, woman, or child who is around mice or rats that carry harmful hantaviruses can get HPS. You do not have to already be sick to be at risk for HPS. Healthy people have become ill with HPS. While HPS is a very rare disease, cases have occurred in all regions of the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii
People get HPS when they breath in hantaviruses. This can happen when rodent urine and droppings that contain a hantavirus are stirred up into the air. People can also become infected when they touch mouse or rat urine, droppings, or nesting materials that contain the virus and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. They can also get HPS from a mouse or rat bite.
Here are some activities that can put people at risk for HPS:
Improperly cleaning up mouse and rat urine, droppings, and nests.
Cleaning a shed or cabin that has been closed for some time.
Working in areas where mice and rats may live (such as barns).
What are the symptoms of HPS?
If people get HPS, they will feel sick 1 to 5 weeks after they were around mice or rats that carried a hantavirus. At first people with HPS will have:
Severe muscle aches
After a few days they will have a hard time breathing. Sometimes people will have headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Usually, people do not have a runny nose, sore throat, or a rash.
How can HPS be prevented?
Keep mice and rats out of your home.
Clean up mouse and rat urine, droppings, and nesting materials with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water.
Use either of these when cleaning up after mice and rats:
General-purpose household disinfectant. Make sure the word “disinfectant” is written on the label.
Bleach and water solution. Mix 1 1/2 cups of household bleach with 1 gallon of water. Smaller amounts can be made with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water.
Do not sweep or vacuum up mouse or rat urine, droppings, or nests. This will cause virus particles to go into the air, where they can be breathed in.
Rodents in the United States that Carry Hantavirus
Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)
Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus)
Rice Rat (Oryzomys palustris)
White-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)
Both the deer mouse and the cotton rat usually live in rural areas, but can also be found in citites when conditions are right, such as easy availability of food, water and shelter.
Other Rodents May Also Carry Hantavirus
Other rodents carry strains of hantavirus that cause HPS, but they have not yet been identified. In addition, other rodent species may play host to other types of hantaviruses that cause a different type of infection, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).
It is wise, therefore, to avoid close contact with rodents in general.