VA Black Hills Health Care System
How Humans Become Infected with HPS (HANTAVIRUS PULMONARY SYNDROME)
Can pets transmit HPS to humans?
The hantaviruses that cause HPS in the United States are not known to be transmitted by any types of animals other than certain species of rodents. Dogs and cats are not known to carry hantavirus; however, they may bring infected rodents into contact with people if they catch such animals and carry them home. Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and rodents from pet stores are not known to carry hantavirus.
In the United States, deer mice (along with cotton rats and rice rats in the southeastern states and the white-footed mouse in the Northeast) are the reservoir of the virus. The rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings, and saliva. The virus is mainly transmitted to people when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus.
When fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials are stirred up, tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air. This process is known as "airborne transmission".
There are several other ways rodents may spread hantavirus to people:
- If a rodent with the virus bites someone, the virus may be spread to that person, but this type of transmission is rare.
- Researchers believe that people may be able to get the virus if they touch something that has been contaminated with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva, and then touch their nose or mouth.
- Researchers also suspect people can become sick if they eat food contaminated by urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected rodent.
The types of hantavirus that cause HPS in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another. For example, you cannot get the virus from touching or kissing a person who has HPS or from a health care worker who has treated someone with the disease. You also cannot get the virus from a blood transfusion in which the blood came from a person who became ill with HPS and survived
Early diagnosis and rapid transfer to a critical care facility has been shown to reduce the fatality rate. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Hantavirus infection, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk of getting the disease.
Four Steps To Reduce Your Risk Of Getting Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS):
1. Air Out
When entering buildings that have been closed up for an extended time, or which are infested with rodents, open doors and allow the building to air out thoroughly for several hours before entering. Avoid creating dust that could be inhaled
2. Seal Out
Eliminate rodent food sources and nesting sites in and around your home. Keep food (including pet food) in rodent-proof containers. Keep woodpiles and other debris at least 100 feet from your home. Seal up any opening into your home that is larger than ¼ inch (about the size of a dime) to keep rodents out.
3. Trap Out
Trap or use rodent bait to reduce the number of rodents in and around your home. When trapping rodents, use spring traps and discard the rodent into a plastic garbage bag after first disinfecting the dead rodent and trap. Use rubber gloves when handling the trapped rodent. Disinfect the area (especially urine and droppings) with a disinfectant that kills viruses.
4. Clean Out
Use only wet cleaning methods to avoid creating dust. If you need to clean rodent nests or droppings, spray them with a disinfectant such as chlorine bleach, a phenol-type spray such as Lysol, or other chemicals labeled to kill viruses to disinfect the area and material. Thoroughly wet the rodent nests and surrounding area with disinfectant solution and allow it to soak for 5 minutes before cleaning. Do not use a vacuum cleaner. Commercially steam clean or shampoo carpets. To avoid carpet damage, do not use a chlorine bleach solution. Clothing or bedding contaminated by rodents should be laundered. Don’t shake the clothing out prior to laundering. Wear rubber gloves (re-usable or disposable) while cleaning rodent droppings, nests, or objects contaminated with rodent droppings. Finally, disinfect all reusable materials after clean-up.