June 26, 2013 - 10:13amUpdated: June 26, 2013 - 2:15pm
Hantavirus microscopic image. Wikipedia file photo
Saskatchewan health officials have confirmed the death of a man in the west central region is linked to Hantavirus. This is the first death reported from Hantavirus in three years.
The rare but potentially fatal infection is usually caused by inhaling dried droppings from infected rodents like deer mice. People can be exposed when vacuuming or sweeping out buildings like sheds, barns, or cottages that have mice.
Symptoms include: fever, coughing, muscle aches, headaches nausea and vomiting. If someone experiences those symptoms within six weeks of exposure to a mouse-infested area they should get medical attention right away.
The Heartland Health Region is investigating the death of another person in the area with possible links to the illness, but they don’t believe the two cases to be linked.
The province's chief medical health officer Saqib Shahab said they happened in the North Battleford/Kindersley areas, but added there is a risk anywhere in the province.
"The cases occur wherever deer mice occur throughout Saskatchewan," he said.
He said most cases result from similar actions.
"In almost all cases, there is some history of cleaning up a shed or a garage, that is the most common exposure," Shahab explained.
People who are more often at risk include farmers, grain-handlers, campers, cottage owners and home-owners.
The biggest risk comes from inhaling particles, so the Ministry of Health outlined a list of steps you can take to prevent exposure, Including: opening doors and windows for 30 minutes before cleaning an outbuilding, wearing gloves while cleaning, using wet mops or dampening surfaces with bleach, avoiding dusting or vacuuming which can release particles into the air.
Other tips include ways of avoiding mice altogether: blocking small holes or entrances to the building, storing all food in closed containers with tight lids, keeping yards clean, storing wood above the ground away from a house or cottage and always being aware of mouse droppings when cleaning areas that could be infested.
Saskatchewan has had 24 cases of Hantavirus since 1994. Seven deaths have been reported.