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DPHHS reminds Montanans to take precautions to avoid hantavirus infection this spring

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) reminds Montanans to be aware this spring about the risk of hantavirus.

Health officials say that hantavirus infection can occur during any month, but spring and summer months pose the highest risk for exposure as people clean cabins, outbuildings and campers or begin spring and summer recreation activities outdoors and come in contact with mouse and rat nesting materials.

“Before you start cleaning garages, sheds or dusting off your camping gear, it is important to look for evidence of rodents and take steps to protect yourself,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper.

With 42 cases of hantavirus reported since 1993, Montana has one of the highest rates of infection in the U.S. Hantavirus infection can cause severe illness and death with one in four of Montana cases resulting in death.

Studies in Montana have shown that the deer mouse, the most common host of the virus, is well disbursed throughout the state and often tests positive for the virus.

“When you open the door on your garage or cabin to begin spring cleaning, stop and think,” Opper cautions. “People can become infected when they breathe in air contaminated by the virus. It is important to not do things that raise dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming if signs of rodents are present. Protecting yourself and cleaning correctly will protect you and your family.”

The best way to prevent hantavirus transmission is to control rodent populations in areas where you live and work. When cleaning areas where rodents may have been present, the following precautions should be followed:

~Wear rubber or plastic gloves.

~Thoroughly spray/soak area with a disinfectant or mixture of bleach and water to reduce dry dusty conditions in the area being    cleaned.

~Wipe or mop the area with a sponge or paper towel (throw away items after use.)

~Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after removing gloves.

~Never sweep or vacuum in these areas as this can stir up dust and aerosolize the droppings.

More information on hantavirus and its prevention can be found DPHHS on the website at:

http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/