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North Dakota Department of Health reminds public to use care while cleaning to avoid hantavirus disease

NDDoH reminds public to use care while cleaning to avoid hantavirus disease

BISMARCK, N.D. – The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) reminds residents to take steps to protect themselves against hantavirus disease. As the weather begins to warm, many people will be cleaning cabins, sheds and other outdoor buildings that have been closed for the winter. These are places that an exposure to hantavirus is more likely to occur.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a viral infection that can cause severe lung disease, including pneumonia. Infected rodents spread the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus is transmitted when someone breathes in air contaminated by the virus, and on rare occasions, it can be transmitted the bite of an infected rodent, such as the deer mouse.

“People are most often exposed to hantavirus when they inhale dust while cleaning or occupying previously vacant cabins, sheds or other dwellings and outbuildings that contain rodents, rodent droppings and rodent nests,” said Levi Schlosser, epidemiologist with the NDDoH Division of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. “Currently, only supportive treatment exists for hantavirus disease, so it is important to be wary of rodent infestations to properly prevent infection.”

NDDoH offers the following tips to avoid hantavirus infection when cleaning a building with signs of rodent infestation:

  • Ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for 30 minutes before you start cleaning.
  • Wear gloves and use disinfectant when cleaning up dead rodents or their urine, droppings, and nests.
  • Saturate the material with disinfectant for at least five minutes before removal.
  • Mop floors and clean countertops, cabinets, and drawers with disinfectant.
  • Use a commercial disinfectant registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and follow the label instructions or use a bleach solution made with one part bleach and ten parts water.
  • Do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming up droppings, urine or nesting materials.
  • Do not let children play in crawl spaces or vacant buildings where rodents may be present.

Symptoms of HPS usually begin two to three weeks after infection. Early symptoms commonly include fever, muscle and body aches, fatigue, headache, dizziness, chills, nausea and vomiting. Within a short period of time, symptoms will worsen to include coughing and shortness of breath as lungs fill with fluid. People with HPS are typically hospitalized.

A total of 18 cases of HPS have been reported to the NDDoH since 1993, when the virus was first recognized in the United States. Eight of the 18 reported cases were fatal. Nationally, 833 cases have been reported, with 35 percent resulting in death, through December 2020.

For more information, contact Levi Schlosser, NDDoH, at 701.328.2378. Please note: A fact sheet containing important precautions to minimize the risk of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome infection is available at https://www.health.nd.gov/sites/www/files/documents/Files/MSS/FactSheet/Hantavirus.pdf.

For more information, contact:

Levi Schlosser, MPH, Division of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases 600 E Boulevard Ave. | Bismarck, ND 58505 lschlosser@nd.gov



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