News Release Archive

The following information is being provided to increase public
awareness and understanding of hantavirus, a rare and serious
illness passed to people by deer mice.

Recently, New Brunswick announced evidence of hantavirus had been
detected in deer mice samples from that province. An analysis is
under way to determine if the virus is present in deer mice in
Nova Scotia. No cases of the virus have been identified in humans
east of Alberta.

Simple, common-sense precautions can help to prevent infection.
People living in rural areas, cottagers and campers should take
particular care.

What is hantavirus infection?

* Hantavirus is a serious illness with flu-like symptoms such as
fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and shortness of
breath. The symptoms usually appear four - six weeks after
exposure. The illness can be fatal.

* The illness is contracted when someone breathes in the virus
from the urine, saliva or droppings of infected deer mice.

* The condition was first described in the southern United States
in 1993, but the virus is not thought to be new. The first
Canadian case was reported in British Columbia in June, 1994.

How is the virus contracted?

* The virus is spread mainly by the deer mouse, which lives
predominantly in semi-rural and rural areas. Deer mice may be
found in homes, old buildings and barns. Deer mice range in color
from pale grey to reddish brown. White fur is found on the belly,
feet and tail.  

* The virus is NOT spread from person to person or from livestock
or pets to humans.

What can I do?

* Keep grass short to discourage mice from living near your home.
Place wood piles at least 30 metres from your home and raise them
at least 30 centimetres off the ground. Store hay on pallets.
Remove abandoned vehicles, old furniture and discarded tires from
yards. Remove old, unused sheds and buildings.

* Stop mice from entering your home. Cover all openings with
materials such as steel wool, metal roof flashing or cement. Mice
can enter the home through very small openings.

* Store food, grains and garbage in mouse-proof containers. Don't
leave pet food or water out overnight.

How do I clean up my home or cottage?

* Before cleaning an area of the home where mice have lived,
spray with disinfectant to reduce dust and ventilate thoroughly
by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes. Damp mop
floors and carpets with a mixture of water, detergent and
disinfectant before vacuuming or sweeping. Don't forget to check
counters, cabinets and cupboards. Steam clean or shampoo rugs and
furniture if needed. Remove furniture if rodents have nested in
it. Wear pants and a long-sleeve shirt for the clean up. Use
gloves to wash soiled garments with detergent and hot water. Put
garments in the dryer on high setting or allow to dry in the sun.
Wash hands well before eating, drinking or smoking.

* Use plastic or rubber gloves to dispose of dead mice. Soak
carcass with disinfectant (e.g. a mixture of household bleach and
water), place it in double plastic bags and then bury, burn, or
dispose of it in a sealed container. Clean mouse traps with

What about camping and hiking?

* When hiking or camping, don't disturb deer mice burrows. If
possible, don't sleep on bare ground. Use a tent with a floor.
Use only bottled water or disinfected water for drinking,
cooking, washing dishes and brushing teeth.

Should I be concerned about my pets?

* There is no evidence to show hantavirus can be spread by
domestic pets who have killed deer mice.

* Store-bought pets are safe. Do not play with wild mice.

For more information, call your local public health unit or
environmental health inspector.


Contact: Lori MacLean  902-424-5025

trp                 Mar. 01, 1996 - 2:45 p.m.