MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) -- As people sweep the cobwebs from their dirty corners and deep clean their property this spring, the Mesa County Health Department is warning about a danger that could be lurking in every crevice: hantavirus.
The disease is carried by rodents-- mostly deer mice, which are brown on top and white underneath with large ears. They spread the virus through their urine, droppings and saliva. Those in turn infect dirt and dust, which people can inhale.
If people catch the virus, they can contract Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, a dangerous and deadly disease.
The health department recommends avoiding contact with rodents, their droppings and nests in homes, sheds, cabins, barns and outdoor areas.
While hantavirus is rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that it has a 38 percent mortality rate. Colorado sees about four cases a year.
Early symptoms include:
- Muscle pain (especially in large muscle groups)
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain
Symptoms 4 to 10 days after the start include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid build-up in the lungs
If symptoms progress, they can lead to respiratory failure and can be life-threatening, according to the health department.
You may be able to see symptoms within a few days to six weeks after exposure.
Here's a list of ways to prevent hantavirus exposure, via the health department:
- Plug holes and other mouse entryways in buildings to rodent-proof
- Open doors or windows 30 to 60 minutes before cleaning buildings for good ventilation.
- Water down areas of mouse infestation with a mixture of bleach and water to avoid stirring up dust. Wear gloves as you clean areas.
- If you live in a rural area, set rodent control traps and poisons or hire a professional exterminator before a rodent population spikes.
- Keep indoor areas clean so rodents aren't attracted to them. Seal food in rodent-proof containers, including pet food. Keep garbage in sealed containers.