For a healthier summer: Learn how hantavirus is transmitted and how to prevent it
Cases of hantavirus transmission rise in the summer as more people visit the countryside and forests. Consequently, it is important to minimize risk by taking a series of precautions. Review them below.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is an acute infectious disease that is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of the long-tailed pygmy rice rat (oligorizomys longicaudatus).
How? The virus is transmitted when a person inhales particles from droppings or urine that the long-tailed pygmy rice rat has left in thickets or closed spaces, like cottages or storage areas.
People living in or visiting, for work or leisure, rural or semi-rural areas with little human intervention, where the rat lives, are most at risk.
What are the symptoms?
The virus has an incubation period of 1 to 3 weeks, with a range from 3 to 45 days. Symptoms include fever, myalgia (muscle pain) and gastrointestinal disorders followed by sudden onset of respiratory insufficiency and hypotension. The disease evolves quickly resulting in severe respiratory failure and shock.
Who is most at risk of contracting the disease?
People living in or visiting, for work or leisure, rural or semi-rural areas with little human intervention, where rodents live, are most at risk.
Where is the most caution required?
Exercise caution in rural or semi-rural areas, especially when approaching or entering closed areas like storage sheds or houses that have been uninhabited for long periods.
What are the prevention measures?
Hantavirus prevention measures for the rural population are:
* Prior to entering areas that have been closed for long periods, ventilate for 30 minutes.
* After ventilating, spray the floor and surfaces with a diluted bleach solution. Then, clean and sweep.
* Keep the exterior of houses and storage areas free of weeds and trash.
* Keep storage areas ventilated and organized, free of waste materials.
* Seal sheds and storage areas; use rat repellent.
* Store food and water out of reach of rodents in airtight containers.
* Keep rodents out of dwellings by sealing holes and gaps where they could enter.
* Do not kill fox, snakes or owls; they protect against rodents.
Hantavirus prevention measures for the general population when camping and travelling:
* Choose clean places, free of thickets and high grass.
* Use a tent that has a bottom, a zipper and is free of holes.
* Store food in durable, closed containers. Do not leave pots and utensils within reach of mice.
* Walk only on authorized trails. Do not go into thickets or pastures.
* Do not pick or consume wild fruit.
* Store trash in closed containers.
* Drink only safe (potable, bottled, boiled or disinfected) water.
If you find droppings, dead mice, nests, gnawed food and other objects that could have been in contact with mice:
* Wear your normal work clothing (overalls, safety boots or shoes, and gloves) and a N100 mask.
* Spray an undiluted bleach concentrate solution on dead mice, droppings or other contaminated objects. Wait 5 minutes.
* Place them in a closed plastic bag, then in a second bag and tie it. Bags must be buried in holes deeper than 60 cm or be burned.
* With the gloves still on, wash your hands in disinfectant, then wash hands with abundant water.