Oh deer, be careful

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May 2, 2016 12:34 PM

Deer mice can cause major health problems if their byproducts come in contact with humans

The weather is getting nicer and as it does, out come the pesky bugs and critters that also enjoy the warmer days and nights.
Among the wildlife will be the deer mouse, an animal that can cause health risks in the form of the hantavirus, which is caused by coming into contact with its droppings and urine.
The deer mouse is most common across Saskatchewan and the Prairie North Health Region (PNHR) wants to share some tips to keep healthy against the hantavirus and its symptoms.
“The infection will start with symptoms like fever, cough, headache, muscle pain, sometimes there may also be vomiting and diarrhea, and those kinds of symptoms usually start within six weeks of exposure,” said Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, medical health officer with PNHR.
“So if people have been exposed to droppings, or air which has been contaminated by droppings, urine and saliva of those deer mice, they may have those signs within six weeks and they should seek medical care.”
He said because the illness is a virus, there is no specific treatment for it, so most of the time only supportive treatment can be provided depending which organ is affected, but there’s no real cure to kill the virus itself.
Most commonly it turns into pulmonary hantavirus syndrome, meaning it’s the respiratory system that’s affected, but in rare cases it can affect the kidneys as well.
Pulmonary hantavirus syndrome can also be fatal, so people are urged to get medical attention right away if fever, coughing and shortness of breath are experienced within one to six weeks of exposure to potentially infested areas.
People are usually exposed to deer mouse infested areas when cleaning out buildings like sheds that
aren’t used during the winter, so this is when wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must.
“First of all, before you embark on that cleaning, make sure that the area you are going to clean is ventilated properly,” said Nsungu.
“Open the windows and doors for at least 30 minutes before you start that cleaning and protect yourself.”
He said make sure to have an N-95 type filter mask to ward off airborne particles and also wear gloves and goggles.
Proper cleaning techniques are encouraged, making sure to avoid dry sweeping and vacuuming as these techniques will kick up dust that can be inhaled and facilitate infection.
Instead, the preferred method is mopping, started by wetting down areas that might be contaminated by mouse droppings.
“Wet them with disinfectant, for example bleach, and after, it is advised to pick up those droppings, and of course be protected with the personal protective equipment,” Nsungu said.
After the cleaning is finished and the PPE is removed, it’s then suggested people wash their hands.
Mouse-proofing one’s home is also encouraged, first by removing anything that could be used as a habitat.
Nsungu recommends getting rid of woodpiles around the house and any old cars that may be parked in the yard, as they’re both environments where deer mice might like to put down roots.
“Also, make sure that the food for people and animals is very well stored in containers that can be covered in such a way that it won’t attract mice, and most importantly, try to close all those holes in the house where mice can use to come in homes,” he said.
“So those are the precautions that people can take, not only to avoid attracting mice, but also to avoid getting infected by the areas that have been contaminated by the droppings of the mice.”

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