Hantavirus is a negative sense RNA virus originating from rodents in South Korea’s Hantan River area. During the Korean War in the 1950s, the initial outbreak affected around 3000 troops from both sides. Since then, the only other major outbreak occurred in the Four Corners region of the United States. Health officials, however, have tried to raise public awareness on the virus last year as an incident involving the deaths of three Yosemite National Park campers was linked to it. Six more visitors were infected.
Effectively getting rid of rodents is the first and best step people can do to avoid the said virus. Early this year, the State Health Department of Oklahoma warned people to be careful with their spring cleaning. Cabins, attics, storage units, and other areas largely left unused over the winter might have provided shelter for infected mice. Simply inhaling contaminated dust from mouse saliva, droppings, and urine can infect a person with pathogens that cause Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).
To minimize the chances of infection from a contaminated room, Laurence Burnsed recommends home cleaners to ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes, and then wetting down the area with a mixture of bleach and water to prevent virus-laden dust from being stirred up. However, to get rid of a mouse in wall panels that could already harbor Hantavirus, health officials strongly recommend getting the services of pest control experts such as the Toronto-based Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control, a leader in resolving problems with urban wildlife.
Though six out of the nine Yosemite campers survived Hantavirus, the current case fatality ratio of the disease stands at 50 percent. According to the Los Angeles Times, the national park spent millions in renovation of its Curry Village cabins, the site where last year’s campers contracted the virus. Undertaking the project was deemed very difficult by the construction team. Mark Gallagher, the park’s environmental manager explains, “Keeping a bear out is easy – your enclosure just has to be strong. With a mouse, you really have to pay attention to detail.”
Park operators also attended to calls from recent visitors who reported symptoms of HPS. For almost a year, the park’s signature cabins have been shut. Contacting the last 250,000 people who camped overnight to give them warnings kept them busy. In Germany, the total number of Hantavirus cases grew to 2,824—its highest ever in a single year. Germany’s western region gets a Hantavirus outbreak every two or three years.
Last January 9, the death of a 45 year old man from Atlin, B.C., alerted B.C. and Yukon officials. It was the most northerly case of Hantavirus verified since its confirmed appearing on Williams Lake in 1995. While Hantavirus is rarer throughout Canada than in the U.S. or Germany, Canadians must remain wary of diseases carried by rodents. Since mice procreate all throughout the year, it is important for homeowners to remain vigilant, and ring pest control specialists the moment infestation is suspected.