Three cases of hantavirus – two in Farmington and one in Denver – have been recorded over the past month, according to a news release issued Tuesday by San Juan Basin Public Health.
The virus normally infects rodents, most often deer mice in Colorado and the Four Corners, and can cause potentially fatal disease in humans through contact with rodent urine, saliva or feces.
Though it can be contracted year-round, the risk of human contact with rodents carrying hantavirus increases when warmer temperatures arrive and residents start early spring cleaning. Dried droppings or urine can be stirred up in dust, and people can contract the virus by breathing contaminated air.
Hantavirus can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening illnesses, especially if not identified and treated quickly. Symptoms that often occur within two weeks of exposure include fever, muscle aches and fatigue. People often experience difficulty breathing, headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain after two weeks. Residents are urged to inform a health care provider if they have been at all exposed to large amounts of rodent droppings or urine or if they experience symptoms.
San Juan Basin Public Heath suggests taking these measures to avoid contracting hantavirus during spring cleaning:
Wear a mask, such as N95 dust masks.Wear rubber or plastic gloves.Open windows and doors to ventilate rooms.Spray all droppings with a bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) until visibly wet before vacuuming or sweeping.Clean droppings with paper towels and ensure used paper towels are contained in a plastic garbage bag.Wrap the garbage bag in a second garbage bag before disposing contents in the trash.Wash gloves before removing them from hands, and wash hands after removing gloves.Hantavirus does not infect other animals, such as dogs, cats, farm animals or livestock, and it is not contagious through human-to-human contact.
San Juan Basin Public Health also recommends residents wear insect repellent and appropriate clothing; protect pets from fleas and ticks; and control the presence of rodents in the home and in areas where wild animals and insects are typically active.