Hantavirus is a disease caused by a virus, carried by rodents. People can get hantavirus when they breathe in particles of infected rodent saliva, urine or feces or by coming into contact with infected rodents. These particles can be introduced to the air in a number of ways (sweeping, fanning, dusting, etc.).
Hantavirus is spread primarily by rodents. Different rodent species throughout the world carry hantavirus. In Arizona, the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), is the most common rodent responsible for spreading the disease.
The disease often begins with a variety of symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and cough. These symptoms can last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks, after which the person becomes extremely ill with pneumonia and, sometimes, heart complications. Based on previous studies, 30-50% of infections will result in death.
No evidence of spreading person-to-person. Hantavirus has not been shown to spread person-to-person in the United States.
Treatment options are varied and intensive. Those with hantavirus infection will typically need high-level medical care to manage the severe pneumonia. Often they will require medical assistance to help them with breathing.
Avoid areas known to be infested. Areas with dense populations of wild rodents should be avoided. Never disturb a rodent nesting site.
Clean up contaminated areas appropriately. Because cleaning activities such as sweeping or dusting can send infected particles into the air, special steps need to be taken to avoid this. Generally, a “wet cleaning” step begins the process. Detailed guidance can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/cleaning/index.html.
Rodent proof housing. Take steps to ensure rodents can NOT enter the house. Place weather-stripping in gaps around doorways and windows, use sealants to fill in cracks, and place screens and other materials over other potential spots of entry.
Protect others. Ensure that young children and others do not try to play with or pick up live or dead rodents or disturb nesting areas.