Facts About Hantaviruses

What You Need To Know To Prevent the Disease Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

What are hantaviruses?

Hantaviruses are a group of viruses that may be carried by some rodents. Some hantaviruses can cause a rare but deadly disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The disease is called HPS for short.

What animals can give people hantaviruses?

Mice and rats can give people hantaviruses that can cause HPS. In North America, they are the deer mouse, the white-footed mouse, the pack rat. Other rodents, such as house mice, roof rats, and Norway rats, have never been known to give people HPS. Since it is hard to tell if a mouse or a rat carries a hantavirus, it is best to avoid all wild mice and rats and to safely clean up any rodent urine, droppings, or nests in your home. Dogs and cats cannot give people hantavirus infections.

How do people get HPS?

People get HPS when they breath in hantaviruses. This can happen when rodent urine and droppings that contain a hantavirus are stirred up into the air. People can also become infected when they touch mouse or rat urine, droppings, or nesting materials that contain the virus and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. They can also get HPS from a mouse or rat bite.
Here are some activities that can put people at risk for HPS:

  • Improperly cleaning up mouse and rat urine, droppings, and nests.
  • Cleaning a shed or cabin that has been closed for some time.
  • Working in areas where mice and rats may live (such as barns).

What are the symptoms of HPS?

If people get HPS, they will feel sick 1 to 5 weeks after they were around mice or rats that carried a hantavirus.

At first people with HPS will have:

  • Fever
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Fatigue

Sometimes people will have headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Usually, people do not have a runny nose, sore throat, or a rash.

How can HPS be prevented?

  • Keep mice and rats out of your home.
  • Clean up mouse and rat urine, droppings, and nesting materials with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water.

Why keep mice and rats out of your home?

Mice and rats can carry harmful diseases, such as HPS, Leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, plague, and typhus. The best way to protect you and your family from these diseases is to keep mice and rats out of your home.

For more information about hantavirus pulmonary syndrome call your state or local health department.

Or call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-877-232-3322

Or see the CDC web page at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/index.htm