Health

Mouse Tests Positive for Hantavirus

A western harvest mouse collected in routine monitoring in open space along the border of Santee and San Diego has tested positive for hantavirus, County environmental health officials said this week.

County officials are reminding people that if they find rodents in their homes, garages, sheds or cabins they should never sweep up or vacuum up after them, but use “wet-cleaning” methods instead, to keep from breathing in the virus and getting sick.

Hantavirus is not uncommon in San Diego County; it can potentially cause deadly infections in people and there is no vaccine or cure. However, people are rarely exposed to hantavirus because the main carriers are wild rodents that prefer to live in the wild away from people.

People can be exposed to hantavirus when wild rodents shed it in their urine, feces and saliva, the matter dries and is stirred into the air where people can breathe it in. So far in 2020, County environmental health has collected 25 rodents that have tested positive for hantavirus.

County officials said wet cleaning methods include using bleach, disinfectants, rubber gloves and bags.

Here are tips for people to prevent being exposed to wild rodents and hantavirus, and how to use wet-cleaning methods.

Avoid Exposure to Hantavirus

  • Seal up all external holes in homes, garages and sheds larger than a dime to keep rodents from getting in.
  • Eliminate rodent infestations immediately.
  • Avoid rodent-infested areas and do not stir up dust or materials that may be contaminated with rodent droppings and urine.
  • Clean up rodent droppings and urine using the wet cleaning method described below.

Use “Wet-cleaning” Methods to Prevent Inhaling the Virus

  • Do not sweep or vacuum infested areas.
  • Ventilate affected area by opening doors and windows for at least 30 minutes.
  • Use rubber gloves. Spray a 10 percent bleach solution or other disinfectants onto dead rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps, and surrounding areas and let the disinfectant stand for at least 15 minutes before cleaning.
  • Clean with a sponge or a mop that has been soaked in disinfectant.
  • Place disinfected rodents and debris into two plastic bags, seal them and discard in the trash.
  • Wash gloves in a bleach solution, then soap and water, and dispose of them using the same double-bag method.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

For more information, contact the County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) at (858) 694-2888 or visit the DEH hantavirus web page.

Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact