With the weather warming up, spring cleaning season is upon us. However, residents are being reminded to take precautions against Hantavirus when cleaning areas that may have been infested by rodents. 

Hantavirus infections are caused by breathing contaminated airborne particles from droppings, urine and saliva from infected deer mice. 

Between 1994 and 2022 there have been about 37 cases of Hantavirus reported in Saskatchewan. While it is rare, Medical Health Officer Dr. David Torr said the virus is very deadly. 

“Forty per cent-plus of individuals who get infected with this virus actually end up dying. We don't have an exact cure for the virus, so again our treatments are usually supportive in these cases,” Torr said. 

Of the 37 cases in Saskatchewan, 13 of those cases were fatal. 

Symptoms of Hantavirus include difficulty breathing, coughing with pain in the chest area, aching muscles and fever. Torr said, in many cases, it can take a long time before symptoms appear. 

“It can take one week or up to six weeks to show in your body or show the effects in your body. So, its incubation period is quite vast, so you might not even realize that this was from an exposure either a week or many weeks before,” Torr said. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. 

Precautions residents can take when cleaning rodent-infested areas include: 

  • Ventilating the building by opening doors and windows and leaving the area for at least 30 minutes before cleaning. 
  • Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping or using an air hose. 
  • Wear rubber or plastic gloves 
  • Wear goggles and an N-95 filter mask. 
  • Dampen areas contaminated with droppings with bleach and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth. 
  • Steam clean, shampoo, or spray furniture with a detergent, disinfectant, or a mixture of bleach and water. 
  • Wash exposed clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water. 

Tips to prevent rodents from infesting buildings include: 

  • Blocking openings that might allow rodents inside. 
  • Store human and animal food, water and garbage in a pest-proof container with a tight-fitting lid. 
  • Move woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from buildings.