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Mouse tests positive for hantavirus

A deer mouse trapped in routine monitoring in the Fallbrook area has tested positive for the potentially deadly hantavirus, prompting San Diego County officials to remind people to never sweep or vacuum up after rodents if they find them in homes, garages, sheds or cabins.

County environmental health officials said hantavirus is not uncommon in San Diego, but people are unlikely to be exposed to it if they keep wild rodents out of their living spaces. However, especially with the spring-cleaning season coming, officials urged people to protect themselves if they find wild rodents living in their homes, sheds and garages.

If they do, officials said, people should never sweep up or vacuum, because people can be exposed to hantavirus by stirring the virus up into the air where they can breathe it in.

Instead, people should always use “wet cleaning” methods – ventilating, using bleach and water solutions or disinfectants, rubber gloves and plastic bags to clean. Wild rodents, particularly mice, are the main carriers of hantavirus. They shed the virus through their urine, feces and saliva. When that matter dries, it can be stirred into the air, people can inhale the virus and get sick. Hantavirus can cause deadly infections in people and there is no vaccine or cure.

Here are tips for people to keep them from being exposed to hantavirus and how to use wet-cleaning methods.

Avoid Exposure to Hantavirus

● Seal up all external holes in homes, garages and sheds larger than a dime to keep rodents from getting in.

● Eliminate rodent infestations immediately.

● Avoid rodent-infested areas and do not stir up dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent droppings and urine.

● Clean up rodent droppings and urine using the wet cleaning method described below.

Use “Wet-cleaning” Methods to Prevent Inhaling the Virus

● Do not sweep or vacuum infested areas.

● Ventilate affected area by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.

● Use rubber gloves. Spray a 10% bleach solution or other disinfectants onto dead rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps, and surrounding areas and let the disinfectant stand for at least 15 minutes before cleaning.

● Clean with a sponge or a mop.

● Place disinfected rodents and debris into two plastic bags, seal them and discard in the trash.

● Wash gloves in a bleach solution, then soap and water and dispose of them using the same double-bag method.

● Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

For more information, contact the county Department of Environmental Health at (858) 694-2888 or visit


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