As spring cleaning season begins, Saskatchewan health officials are reminding people to be careful in buildings potentially infested with mice.
Breathing dust contaminated with mouse droppings, urine or saliva can put people at risk of the potentially fatal lung illness called Hantavirus.
Symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, headache, coughing, nausea and vomiting can start between one and six weeks of exposure. People who have come into contact with mouse droppings and develop a fever, cough and shortness of breath are advised to seek medical attention right away.
Since 1994, 31 people in Saskatchewan have tested positive for Hantavirus and 10 have died from it.
There are safety precautions to take while cleaning buildings commonly infested with mice, such as cabins, campers, grain bins, barns, sheds or even vehicles left sitting empty over the winter.
Health officials suggest opening windows and doors to air out the buildings for at least 30 minutes before starting to clean. Wearing goggles and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask is recommended for cleaning confined spaces with mouse droppings.
People are also advised to wear gloves and use wet mopping methods to clean while avoiding vacuuming, dusting or sweeping which can stir up the dust more. Clothing or bedding should be washed in hot water and upholstered furniture should be steam-cleaned, shampooed or sprayed with a disinfectant or mixture of bleach and water.
Some of the suggestions to prevent mouse infestations include: blocking potential openings, storing food, garbage and water in tightly sealed containers, and moving woodpiles away from buildings.