Having a rodent in the house is always unsettling – from the sounds of scurrying feet to the chewed-through food wrappers and the droppings you find left behind. But mice and rats can pose even more serious problems if they are infected with a disease called hantavirus.
Here’s what New Jersey homeowners should know about hantavirus and how to protect their families from this potentially deadly disease.
What Is Hantavirus?
Hantavirus is a type of virus that is caused by rodents and that can affect humans. There are actually multiple types of hantaviruses that affect different parts of the world. People in the U.S. started becoming more concerned about hantavirus in the 1990s when there was an outbreak in the Four Corners region of the Southwest. Hantavirus is common in rural, forested, and farm areas, but it also occurs in houses and barns where rodents seek shelter.
Transmission and Common Hantavirus Symptoms
In our area, the most common human disease caused by hantavirus mice is hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. This condition occurs when people breathe in air where infected rodents exist and have left behind urine, feces, or saliva. Hantavirus is usually spread through airborne transmission, although rodents may also spread the disease to humans through a bite, touching contaminated surfaces, or eating contaminated food too.
Hantavirus symptoms can begin anywhere from one to eight weeks after you are exposed to the disease. Most people report their first symptoms as muscle aches, fever, and fatigue. Diarrhea, vomiting, chills, and headaches are also common in the early days of exposure. After those first few days, shortness of breath and coughing begin. This is a potential fatally disease with a mortality rate of 38%.
Types of Rodents That Carry Hantavirus
Each type of hantavirus is caused by a specific rodent and commonly spread through saliva, feces, and urine. In the U.S., the most common type of hantavirus is caused by deer mice. Other rodents that are known to carry hantavirus include cotton rats, rice rats, and white-footed mice.
Keep Your Home Free of Hantavirus Mice
The best way to prevent the spread of hantavirus in your home is to eliminate your exposure to mice and rats. It is always a smart idea to keep all food in rodent-proof containers and seal up holes that could allow rodents to enter your home. Also, clear debris from around the foundation of your home that could be used as nesting material.
Traps can provide temporary solutions for rodent control, but your best line of defense in preventing a hantavirus infection is to consult a professional exterminator to inspect your home for rodent activity. We are committed to keeping your home rodent-free and helping you prevent the spread of disease in New Jersey, so contact us today to learn more.