Time for a Spring Clean!

April 21, 2016 | Healthy Homes

It’s here, sun and snow– which in Montana, we call spring. While most people think of spring cleaning in terms of their home it’s just as important, if not more so, to take care of your outdoor environment. There are three important areas to focus on, well water testing, dog poop cleanup and rodent droppings which can carry life-threatening hantavirus.

Well Water Testing

Private well owners should test annually for coliform bacteria and nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels. Spring is the best time to test while the weather is wet.

Testing should also be done if:

  • You notice a change in water quality.
  • People drinking the water suffer from illnesses that may be waterborne.
  • There is a flood or large storm that may have carried contaminants in the wellhead.
  • Maintenance work is done on the well.
  • A pregnant woman, a woman anticipating pregnancy or an infant under 6 months becomes a water user.
  • Any noticeable change in taste, color or smell.

Test kits are available at:

Gallatin Local Water Quality District

215 W. Mendenhall, Suite 300, Bozeman


Dog Poop

Besides the yuck factor, dog poop should be cleaned as soon as the snow melts. Here’s why:

Dog poop is third on the list of contaminants to water. Pet feces can be catastrophic to the local water table, contaminating nearby ponds, lakes, rivers and drinking water. When feces is allowed to remain on the soil for long periods, rainstorms will begin to dilute and break it apart which slowly spreads the bacteria onto other contaminants into local water sources. If your yard happens to hold water for extended periods of time, the problem may be amplified.

Dog feces may contain parvovirus, whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, threadworms, campylobacteriosis, giardia, and coccidia. If left unattended, these parasites will contaminate the water, soil, and can even cause infection in both pets and humans (especially children). The microscopic Hookworm larvae can be passed to another pet or person directly through the skin or by accidental ingestion as can other bacteria.

Humans are capable of contracting hookworms, tapeworms, threadworms and campylobacteriosis, which is the most significant reason to avoid puppy kisses. Children are especially venerable to infection because they tend to enjoy playing in the dirt, where parasites such as hookworm larvae lay dormant. Young children may also put dirty hands or toys in their mouth, further increasing the chance for infectious material consumption.

The microscopic hookworm larvae can be passed to another pet or person directly through skin or by accidental ingestion.

To avoid potential infection, dog poop should be removed every 1-7 days. If you are too busy to clean up after your dog, or the thought of it just makes you gag, there are services available that will gladly do the dirty work for you.


Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) disease is spread through several types of rodents, particularly deer mice. The disease is characterized by flu-like symptoms that can advance rapidly to potentially life-threatening breathing problems.

People become infected primarily by breathing infected air from rodent urine and droppings. HPS occurs sporadically, usually in rural areas. Barns, outbuildings and sheds are potential sites to be exposed.

In Montana, the deer mouse and white footed mouse (found in Eastern Montana) carry the virus, which is shed in their urine, droppings and saliva. It is mainly transmitted to people when they breathe contaminated air, but there are a few other ways you can contract the disease:

  • Rodent bites, which are rare.
  • Researchers believe it can be transmitted if you touch something contaminated then touch your nose or mouth.
  • Researchers also suspect people can become sick if they eat infected food.

The first stage causes flu-like symptoms:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain

After 4-10 days, more serious signs and symptoms begin which typically include:

  • Cough with secretions
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluid in lungs
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduced heart efficiency

The types of hantavirus causing HPS in the U.S. can’t be transmitted from one person to another. Treatment options are limited, so the best protection is to avoid rodents and their habitats

To clean dropping avoid actions that create dust such as vacuuming or sweeping.

For information on how to correctly clean urine and droppings go to: http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/cleaning/index.html

The chances of being exposed to hantavirus is greatest when people work, play or live in closed spaces where rodents are actively living.

If you do find rodents or traces of them, follow these simple steps…seal up, trap up and clean up!