Health officials are urging people to protect themselves after a resident living in central Alberta contracted hantavirus.
The virus, which is carried by wild rodents — especially deer mice, can be contracted when a person comes into contact with the urine or feces of the infected rodent.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) will not say where the infected person lives, or how they came into contact with the virus. However, they are urging people to take precautions as it can become airborne when anyone disturbs an area where mice droppings are present.
"It is very important that anyone who has recently been in an area contaminated by mice and who has subsequently developed severe flu-like symptoms or difficulty breathing see a doctor immediately," said Dr. Ifeoma Achebe, medical officer of health for Alberta's central zone.
Although hantavirus infection is rare, it can be fatal.
People infected with hantavirus generally show symptoms one or two weeks after exposure. However, symptoms have been known to appear up to five weeks after exposure.
Symptoms resemble severe flu, including fever, body aches, chills, abdominal problems and severe breathing problems.
To safely clean mouse droppings, nests or dead mice, AHS recommends following these precautions:
- Open doors and windows for ventilation and keep out of the area for at least 30 minutes before beginning clean up.
- Wearing rubber gloves, thoroughly soak the droppings, nests and dead mice with a bleach, water solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or a household disinfectant.
- Let the solution sit for five minutes.
- Never disturb any droppings, nests or dead mice before allowing them to soak up the bleach solution.
- Mop up bleach-soaked droppings, nests or dead mice, or pick up with paper towels and place them in a plastic bag.
- Seal the bag and put it in a garbage container with tight fitting lid.
- Wash your gloves before removing, then wash your hands.
- Never vaccuum or sweep droppings, nests or dead mice. This can create dust that can be inhaled. The dust may contain hantavirus.
Albertans dealing with significant mouse infestations in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation should contact Health Link to discuss necessary special precautions.