Health officials are reminding people to take precautions following confirmation of the province’s first fatal case of hantavirus in 2014. The death occurred in an adult from southern Saskatchewan.
Hantavirus infection is a rare but potentially fatal illness. The virus is transmitted by breathing in contaminated airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice.
Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, muscle aches, cough, headaches, nausea and vomiting. In rare cases, people develop a very severe and often fatal lung disease known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome.
“If you develop a fever, muscle aches, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of exposure to mouse-infested areas, you need to seek immediate medical attention,” Saskatchewan’s Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Denise Werker said.
The chance of contracting hantavirus infection in Saskatchewan is currently low; however, deer mice can be found in all areas of the province. People are reminded to take precautions when camping, opening their cottage, getting the RV or boat ready for the season, moving woodpiles or cleaning out buildings.
Exposure to hantavirus can be reduced by avoiding contact with rodents and contaminated airborne particles.
- Block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
- Store human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tightly-fitted lids;
- Be aware of animal droppings and nesting materials when cleaning a home or other buildings.
When cleaning rodent-infested areas, people are advised to reduce the risk of contaminated air particles becoming airborne, and prevent direct contact and inhalation.
- Ventilate the building by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes before cleaning;
- Use wet mopping methods and wear gloves;
- Dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth; and
- Avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming or air-hosing.
There have been 27 cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome reported in Saskatchewan since 1994, nine of which resulted in death. The average number of cases per year ranges from zero to four.
For more information about hantavirus and how to prevent infection, visit the Ministry of Health's website at www.health.gov.sk.ca/hantavirus and HealthLine Online at www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline-online.
Guidelines for the public and workplaces are also available at www.lrws.gov.sk.ca/hantavirus-disease-guidelines-protecting-workers-public.