A mouse from the western harvest collected for routine monitoring in open space along the border of Santee and San Diego tested positive for hantavirus, county environmental health officials said this week.
County officials are reminding people that if they find rodents in their homes, garages, sheds or cabins, they should never sweep or vacuum, but use “wet cleaning” methods to avoid breathing the virus and getting sick.
Hantavirus is not uncommon in San Diego County; it can cause deadly infections in people and there is no vaccine or cure. However, people are rarely exposed to hantavirus because the main carriers are wild rodents who prefer to live in the jungle away from people.
People can be exposed to hantavirus when wild rodents eliminate it in their urine, feces and saliva, the dry matter and is released into the air where people can breathe. So far, in 2020, the county’s environmental health has collected 25 rodents that have tested positive for hantavirus.
County officials said wet cleaning methods include using bleach, disinfectants, rubber gloves and bags.
Here are some tips for people to avoid exposure to wild rodents and hantaviruses, and how to use wet cleaning methods.
Avoid exposure to hantavirus
- Seal all external holes in houses, garages and sheds larger than a dime to prevent rodents from entering.
- Eliminate rodent infestations immediately.
- Avoid rodent-infested areas and do not raise dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent faeces and urine.
- Clean rodent droppings and urine using the wet cleaning method described below.
Use “wet cleaning” methods to prevent inhalation of the virus
- Do not sweep or vacuum infested areas.
- Ventilate the affected area by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.
- Wear rubber gloves. Spray a 10 percent bleach solution or other disinfectants on dead rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps and surrounding areas and let the disinfectant stand for at least 15 minutes before cleaning.
- Clean with a sponge or mop soaked in disinfectant.
- Place disinfected rodents and debris in two plastic bags, close them and dispose of them in the trash.
- Wash the gloves in a bleach solution, then with soap and water and dispose of them using the same method as the double bag.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
For more information, contact the County Environmental Health Department (DEH) at (858) 694-2888 or visit the DEH hantavirus web page.