Hantaviruses are a group of viruses that may be carried by some rodents. Some hantaviruses can cause a rare but deadly disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The disease is called HPS. Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) is a group of clinically similar illnesses caused by hantaviruses from the family Bunyaviridae.
Only some kinds of mice and rats can give people hantaviruses that can cause HPS. In North America, they are the deer mouse, the white-footed mouse, the rice rat, and the cotton rat. However, not every deer mouse, white-footed mouse, rice rat, or cotton rat carries a hantavirus. Other rodents, such as house mice, roof rats, and Norway rats, have never been known to give people HPS. Since it is hard to tell if a mouse or a rat carries a hantavirus, it is best to avoid all wild mice and rats and to immediately and safely clean up any rodent urine, droppings, or nests at your camp.
Top Five Tips for Camps
- Clean up properly. Clean up all rat and mouse urine, droppings, and nesting materials with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water. (See the resources section below for more details.)
- Remove dead rodents safely. Spray the dead rodent as well as the surrounding area with disinfectant and let it soak for five minutes. Place the rodent and any nesting materials in a plastic bag, seal the bag and place it in a second bag. Seal the second bag and dispose of it in a covered trash container.
- Wear gloves. When cleaning up, always wear gloves. When done, wash gloved hands with soap and water before taking them off. Remove gloves and dispose of in trash. Wash hands again after taking off the gloves.
- Keep rodents from entering buildings. While camps can find this a challenging task, there are prevention steps that can be taken. See the resources below for ideas.
- Trap! Use snap traps to reduce the rodent population. Do not use glue traps or live traps as these traps can scare rodents that are caught live and cause them to urinate. Since their urine may contain germs, this may increase risk of being exposed to diseases. Carefully read the instructions before setting traps. Dispose of dead rodents as described in #2 above.