Dr. Rick Johnson, Public Health Officer for Inyo County, said that a local resident of Inyo County has been hospitalized with a clinical picture that is highly suspect of being caused by hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS). Particularly during these summer months, hantavirus needs to be considered in anyone with a serious “influenza-like illness”, which includes fever, body and muscle aches, headache, cough, or respiratory difficulty.
Since 1993, when the disease was first recognized in the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed over 600 cases of HPS in 34 states; 36% of the cases were fatal. California has documented 62 cases, and in about half of these, exposure has been in the Eastern Sierra counties (some residents, some visitors).
Rodents, particularly the deer mouse, carry the virus that causes HCPS, which is typically spread to humans when infectious material from rodents is inhaled. This occurs when fresh droppings, urine, saliva, or nesting materials are disturbed and the air becomes contaminated with the virus. Hantaviruses can live in the environment for 2-3 days at normal room temperature. The UV rays of sunlight will kill the virus. Transmission peaks during the spring and summer months. HCPS in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another, nor from farm animals, dogs, cats, or rodents purchased at a pet store.
Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing hantavirus infection. Recommendations can be summed up as:
SEAL UP holes inside and outside the home to prevent entry by rodents.
TRAP UP - Trap rodents around the home to help reduce the population.
CLEAN UP - urine and droppings, dead rodents or nests, cabins, barns, sheds, or other outbuildings, heavy rodent infestations, food sources and nesting sites
Here are the detailed instructions:
Seal up holes inside and outside the home to prevent entry by rodents.
Prevent rodents from entering the home by checking inside the house for gaps or holes any larger than a pencil could fit into. Potential rodent entry holes can be found inside, under, and behind kitchen cabinets, inside closets, around doors, and under sinks. Seal the holes, using steel wool, lath metal, or caulk. If you do not remember to seal up entry holes in your home, mice will continue to enter.
Prevent rodents from entering the home outside. Clear brush and grass from around the foundation of the home. Check the house for debris and holes that might encourage rodent infestations. Potential rodent entry holes can be found around windows and doors, between the foundation of your house and the ground, and around electrical, plumbing and gas lines. Seal possible entry holes with cement, lath metal, hardware cloth, or sheet metal. Fix gaps in trailer skirtings and use flashing around the base of the house.