Deer mice, you may have seen evidence of their presence during your spring clean-up. They're not just a nuisance but can also be detrimental to your health.

Specifically, the potential to transmit hantavirus posed by exposure to airborne particles contaminated by the droppings or saliva of infected mice is the primary concern, which can cause a potentially fatal lung disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. 

"Exposure to hantavirus most often occurs when cleaning enclosed buildings, or equipment and vehicles after winter," Saskatchewan's Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Julie Kryzanowski said. 

"Particles can become airborne after sweeping, but it's also possible to get the virus by touching something that has been contaminated, and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes."

While the hantavirus infections are rare, the risk can be mitigated by taking the following precautions when cleaning outbuildings such as sheds and unoccupied dwellings like cabins where evidence of rodent infestations can be found.'

  • ventilate the building by opening doors and windows, and then leave the area for at least 30 minutes before cleaning
  • avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing
  • use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves
  • wear goggles and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings
  • dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth
  • steam clean, shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water
  • wash exposed clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.

You can also take steps to minimize the presence of all varieties of rodents and pests by reducing the availability of food sources or materials used for nesting, preventing access to the buildings. 

Storing food water and garbage in pest-resistant containers with tightly fitted lids, and moving common rodent hiding places such as woodpiles away from structures can go a long way in preventing an infestation.

Between 1994 and 2023, a total of 38 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome were reported in Saskatchewan: with 13 of those cases being fatal. 

The virus can affect anyone who comes into contact with mouse droppings. Symptoms usually start within one to six weeks of exposure, with the symptoms of the infection including fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Some individuals develop symptoms that can be life threatening.

It is advised that if you experience these symptoms after a potential exposure to seek medical attention immediately.

For more information on hantavirus, visit: and HealthLine Online at

For advice on symptoms or when to seek care, call HealthLine 811.