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Published On: Wed, Aug 28th, 2013

Hantavirus reported in rural Alberta, health officials advise on precautions

The Alberta Health Services is advising area residents of a rural community in central Alberta, and all Albertans, to take simple precautions to protect themselves after health officials reported a case of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) from the area.

“Because humans can be exposed to Hantavirus when the urine or feces of an infected rodent – such as a mouse – become airborne, anyone who disturbs areas of mice or mice droppings can be at risk,” says Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, Medical Officer of Health – Central Zone. “It is essential that Albertans take precautions to protect themselves, and greatly reduce their risk of illness.”

Alberta Health Services says when cleaning mouse droppings, nests, or dead mice, observe these precautions:

  • Open doors and windows for ventilation, and keep out of the area for at least 30 minutes prior to commencing clean up.
  • Wearing rubber gloves, thoroughly soak droppings, nests and dead mice with a bleach/water solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or a household disinfectant.
  • Let the bleach water solution sit for five minutes.
  • Never disturb any droppings, nests or dead mice, prior to soaking with this bleach solution.
  • Mop up bleach-soaked droppings, nest and/or dead mice, or pick up with paper towels, and place them in a plastic bag.
  • Seal the bag and put in a garbage container with a tight fitting lid.
  • Wash your gloves before removing, and then wash your hands.
  • Never vacuum or sweep droppings, nests or dead mice. This can create dust that can be inhaled. The dust may contain Hantavirus.

Hantavirus is a potentially life-threatening disease spread to humans by rodents that has symptoms similar to influenza.

Rodents, especially deer mice, carry Hantavirus. The virus is found in their urine and feces, but it does not make the animal sick.

Deer Mouse Image/CDC

Deer Mouse
Image/CDC

It is believed that humans can get sick with this virus if they come in contact with contaminated dust from mice nests or droppings. You may come in contact with the dust when cleaning homes, sheds, or other enclosed areas that have been empty for a long time.

Hantavirus does not spread between humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) divides the symptoms of hantavirus between “early” and “late” symptoms.

Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal.

There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, andabdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.

Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a “…tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face” as the lungs fill with fluid.

Says Achebe, “it is very important that anyone who has recently been in an area contaminated by mice and who has subsequently developed severe flu-like symptoms or difficulty breathing see a doctor immediately.”

HPS has a mortality rate of 38% according to the agency.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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