Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
Commonly abbreviated as HPS, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is a very dangerous infectious disease that is spread by the saliva, nesting material, urine, or droppings of infected rodents. When humans breathe in an aerosolized virus, they contract HPS. The disease was first diagnosed in 1993 and has since had instances across the United States. While instances are rare, the disease is deadly. The best method of HPS prevention is pest control.
Individuals who are exposed to rodents carrying Hantavirus are put at risk of contracting HPS. If your home is infested with rodents, you are definitely at great risk, regardless of how healthy you are otherwise. In America, rice rats, deer mice, and rice rats are known to carry the Hantavirus in the Southeast while white-footed mice carry the virus in the Northeast.
Transmission of HPS primarily occurs from breathing in the aerosolized virus from fresh excrements, nesting material, or saliva of rodents. However, HPS can also be transmitted when open wounds, the mouth, or the nose come in direct contact with contaminated materials. The virus can also be spread from the bite of a rodent, but such a method of transmission is considered extremely rare.
Fortunately, HPS cannot be transmitted from person to person in the United States. Physical contact with an infected individual or exchanging saliva cannot transmit HPS. Blood transfusions cannot transmit HPS either. HPS is only transmitted by rodents and no other animals or rodents from a pet store carry HPS.
The Hantavirus remains infectious for a certain period depending on the conditions of its surrounding environment, such as humidity and temperature. The chemistry of the rodent’s diet could also impact how long the virus remains infectious. In typical room temperature, the virus could be infectious for about three days. Sunlight will shorten the time while freezing will increase the time. Usually the viability ranges from hours to days, so HPS infection is only likely in a setting with active infestations of rodents that are infected.
Prevention of HPS requires pest control, first and foremost. Professional services may be required for a thorough extermination. Make sure that any rodent habitats are blocked off with caulk, steel wool, or lath metal. Use snap traps and make sure there are no food sources available to rodents in your home. Wear latex, rubber, or nitrile gloves when cleaning an infested home and avoid stirring up any dust while cleaning. Vacuums are not recommended as they stir up dust, even HEPA vacuums. Use a disinfectant such as a hypochlorite solution to wet contaminated areas.
You can make a hypochlorite solution by mixing 1.5 cups of bleach with a gallon of water. Use a damp towel to sponge wet contaminated areas. Use the spray on any dead rodents and double bag the dead rodents as well as any cleaning materials used. Dispose of the materials via burying or burning or contact your local disposal system for advice. Disinfect your gloves after use and wash your hands thoroughly.
Items that cannot be disinfected with a liquid solution, such as books, should be exposed to sunlight for several hours, kept indoors in a rodent free area for a week, or thrown away. Use protective gloves when handling the items and wipe them with a damp cloth with disinfectant if you can. For fabric items, wash them using very hot water and detergent. Dry on a high heat setting or dry in the sun for several hours. Do not just run through the dryer without washing them first. Use disinfectant on carpets and furniture as well, or clean with a professional steam cleaner and shampoo.
If you suspect that you have been exposed to rodents carrying the Hantavirus and are experiencing fever, shortness of breath, or deep muscle aches, consult your doctor straight away and inform your doctor of how you were exposed to the rodents.