Simple precautions can reduce the risk of hantavirus

June 13, 2019

CALGARY – Albertans are reminded to take simple steps to protect themselves from hantavirus, a potentially fatal illness that primarily affects the lungs/respiratory system.

Hantavirus is caused when humans inhale particles of urine or feces from infected rodents, usually deer mice, which become airborne when disturbed. Anyone who disturbs areas of mice or mice droppings can be at risk.

To protect yourself and greatly reduce your risk of illness, follow these precautions whenever cleaning areas of mice or mice droppings:

  • Open doors and windows for ventilation, and keep out of the area for at least 30 minutes prior to commencing clean up.
  • Wear rubber gloves, and thoroughly soak droppings, nests and dead mice with a bleach/water solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or a household disinfectant.
  • Let the bleach water solution sit for five minutes.
  • Never disturb any droppings, nests or dead mice prior to soaking with bleach solution.
  • Mop up bleach-soaked droppings, nest and/or dead mice, or pick up with paper towels, and place them in a plastic bag.
  • Seal the bag and put in a garbage container with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Wash your gloves before removing and then wash your hands.
  • Never vacuum or sweep droppings, nests or dead mice. This can create dust that can be inhaled. The dust might contain hantavirus.
  • If dealing with significant mouse infestations or with mouse infestations in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, contact Health Link Alberta (1-866-408-5465) to discuss necessary precautions.

Infected individuals typically show symptoms one to two weeks following exposure; however, symptoms can appear up to five weeks after exposure. Symptoms resemble severe flu, including fever, body aches, chills, abdominal problems and severe breathing problems. Although rare, hantavirus can be fatal.

From 2014 to 2018, 16 cases of hantavirus were confirmed in Alberta residents. Of those cases, one was fatal. There have been two cases of hantavirus confirmed in Alberta this year.

Any Albertan who has recently been in an area contaminated by mice and subsequently develops flu-like symptoms or difficulty breathing are reminded to see a doctor immediately.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

For media inquiries, contact:

Kristin Whitworth
AHS Communications