Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is an infectious respiratory disease caused by hantavirus. The deer mouse is the primary host of the hantavirus in the United States, but other rodents, such as the cotton rat and white-footed mouse, may also carry the virus. Infected rodents shed the virus through urine, droppings, and saliva.
Humans can contract HPS by inhaling particles infected with hantavirus. The primary risk of human exposure is rodent infestations in or around the home. Preventing contact with rodents is the best way to ensure you do not contract HPS.
To prevent exposure to HPS, homes should be rodent-proofed by sealing entry holes, trapping mice and rats, and thoroughly cleaning rodent-infected areas. Taking the proper precautions while cleaning contaminated areas will prevent the spread of hantavirus. Latex gloves should be worn while cleaning any contaminated area. Do not stir up dust by vacuuming or sweeping the area. Instead, use a bleach solution (11/2 cups of bleach to 1 gallon water) to wet the contaminated areas. Remove contaminated items with a wet cloth or mop. Dead rodents should be disinfected, double-bagged, and buried, burned or disposed of in a proper waste disposal facility. After cleaning the contaminated area, disinfect gloves before removal. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.
Early symptoms of HPS can occur 3-5 days after infection and include fever, fatigue and muscle aches. Other symptoms may include headaches, chills or abdominal discomfort. As the disease progresses, symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath, which is known as the "cardiopulmonary phase" of the disease, where the body reacts as the lungs start to fill up with fluid. From here, the disease progresses very rapidly; the shortness of breath leads to acute respiratory distress, often within 24 hours. The disease can be fatal so it is imperative to seek medical attention if you suspect a hantavirus infection.