The facts about hantavirus

Sep 22, 2023, 14:12 PM by Fred Speer

Rodents present numerous health and food safety risks, and one of the more serious threats is hantavirus. Hantavirus includes a group of viruses that can cause illness in humans, which can be accompanied by kidney, blood, or respiratory ailments and sometimes can be fatal. The good news is that it’s relatively rare. The bad news is that it's unpredictable and serious.

Hantavirus was originally associated with the Four Corners area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Today it has become more widespread throughout the United States, including California and northern Nevada. Health officials in Washoe County, Nevada – near Lake Tahoe – recently confirmed a case of Hantavirus in a 60-year-old man.

The virus is carried by several types of rodents – mainly the deer mouse – and is shed in their urine, feces, and saliva. The contaminated excreta from infected rodents becoming airborne in the dust is thought to be the primary source of infection via the virus becoming aerosolized. Although rare, direct animal transmission (e.g., a rodent bite) can also infect other rodents and humans.

People typically get hantavirus while cleaning homes, cabins, yards, and sheds. The California Department of Public Health reminds individuals to take precautions when entering cabins, trailers, and other buildings that may be infested with rodents.

Hantavirus symptoms

Hantavirus infection is characteristically an influenza-like illness. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and lower back pain. More seriously, it can lead to respiratory distress and death in humans.

Unfortunately, there is no known effective treatment or vaccine, leaving only symptomatic support while the person heals naturally. The most effective way to avoid contracting hantavirus from deer mice is to keep them out of houses, cabins, and dwellings. Rodent proofing and excluding them from these structures, by sealing all small gaps and cracks, can do that.


Deer mouse facts

The deer mouse, also referred to as the white-footed mouse, is the most abundant and widely distributed mammal in North America. They prefer forests, grasslands, and agricultural crops, and are not typically found within urban and residential areas unless fields, forests, or other suitable habitats surround those areas.

Deer mice are nocturnal and spend daylight hours in refuges or nests. Nest sites include tree hollows, stumps, and roots, as well as the underside of rocks and logs. Deer mice also nest above ground and have been known to inhabit abandoned squirrel or bird nests, or nests inside buildings.

In addition to their threat to health, deer mice will damage upholstered furniture, mattresses, clothing, paper, or other materials they find suitable for constructing their nests. The nests and droppings left by deer mice are like those of house mice.

Preventing hantavirus

  • Rodent control, with careful handling and disposal of carcasses, should be done by a licensed pest control professional, like Clark Pest Control, at campsites or in cabins before they are occupied.
  • Wear surgical gloves and masks when cleaning areas potentially contaminated by rodents. The premises should be sprayed with detergents or diluted bleach before thorough cleaning. Wet mopping is recommended.
  • Do not dry sweep or vacuum where there is evidence or suspicion of rodent infestation, as it may increase the risk of producing airborne particles.
  • Remove wood, junk, and brush piles near your home. Store firewood at least 20 feet from your house and keep vegetation around the house well trimmed.
  • Individuals trapping and handling small rodents should take increased precautions to reduce their exposure to this virus.

Clark Pest Control has decades of experience preventing and removing rodents from homes. Call or text California’s trusted pest control expert at (800) WE-NEED-YOU (936-3339) or email us at if you have any questions or concerns about rodents in and around your home.

Until next time, the pest management professionals at Clark Pest Control thank you for helping to keep unwanted pests out of your home and yard.

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