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Hantavirus Found In Sixth Mouse In San Diego County

California mouse file image
Mark Chappell
California mouse file image

A mouse trapped in Pala Mesa tested positive for hantavirus, which can cause a potentially fatal disease in humans, the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health announced Wednesday.

The DEH said the rodent was caught near Old Highway 395 and was the sixth mouse to test positive in the region in this year.

"There are two important things people need to remember to help protect themselves," said county Environmental Health Director Liz Pozzebon. "First, avoid exposure. And second, if you have to clean an area where rodents have been, do not sweep or vacuum. Use wet cleaning methods."

Wild rodents, most notably deer mice, can carry hantavirus and shed it through their saliva, urine and feces. People can breathe in the virus if infected dust from droppings and nesting materials is stirred up and becomes airborne, according to the county.

People who inhale the virus can develop hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which starts with flu-like symptoms but can cause severe breathing difficulties that can be fatal. There is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which kills more than a third of infected patients, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials say common house mice don't carry hantavirus and that, while it is important to take sensible precautions, humans rarely contract the illness.

Information on cleaning procedures is available on the DEH website.

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