Mouse with deadly disease found in Poway

By Elizabeth Marie Himchak

A western harvest mouse in Poway is one of two rodents county officials recently trapped that tested positive for a potentially deadly disease in humans.

The mouse in Poway, along with a California mouse in Campo, tested positive for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, San Diego County Environmental Health officials announced on Jan. 10. If infected, humans get flu-like symptoms that can lead to severe and deadly breathing difficulties. There is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment, making the disease fatal for 38 percent of people infected, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said humans are rarely threatened when infected rodents are in the wild, but there is potential danger when contact occurs in rural or back country areas, urban canyons and when rodents enter homes, sheds or garages and their dropping or nesting materials are cleaned up in ways that make the disease airborne. The virus is shed through a mouse’s saliva, urine or feces.

“The best way to make sure you don’t get exposed is to keep rodents out of your house ... seal up any holes larger than a dime,” said Environmental Health Director Jack Miller. “If you do find rodent infestations, remember not to sweep or vacuum up, because hantavirus is an airborne disease. Use ‘wet-cleaning’ methods to protect yourself.”

Officials recommend ventilating the affected area by leaving doors and windows open for 30 minutes. Afterwards, wear rubber gloves when spraying a 10 percent bleach solution or other disinfectant on the deceased animal, its droppings, nests, contaminated traps and surrounding areas. Wait 15 minutes before using a sponge or mop to clean the area.

Rodent remains and associated debris are to be placed in two plastic bags that are sealed then placed in the trash. Wash gloves with a bleach solution followed by soap and water before disposing in double bags. Then thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.

For more information, call 858-694-2888 or go to

www.sdcounty.ca.gov/deh/pests/hantavirus.html

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