BEND, OR -- A Deschutes County woman has died of a rare disease spread by rodent droppings. Heather Kaisner with Deschutes County Public Health, says there have only been a few confirmed local cases of Hantavirus, "We've had 23 cases since 1983 in Oregon and six cases in Deschutes County between 1993 and now; so it is a rare disease, but it is very serious disease." It's most commonly carried by deer mice and white-footed mice.
Due to confidentiality, Kaisner refused to release details of this most recent death, but she says, "Usually people are exposed after they're going into an enclosed area to do cleaning, like a barn or a shed, an attic, or a summer home that's been enclosed for awhile. If there's mouse droppings in places, and it gets aerosolized in the air, you breath it in, and that's actually how you contract it." Symptoms include tiredness, dizziness, fever and chills, muscle aches and headaches, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain and coughing. They can progress to extreme difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, and if left untreated, eventually death. It can take up to six weeks for symptoms to manifest. Kaisner says the state is still investigating possible exposures.
She tells KBND News, "Our whole goal here is prevention. The first line of prevention is preventing rodent infestations and rodent droppings in your home or places of work. And then the secondary prevention is just the proper cleaning of those droppings." The best way to get rid of mouse droppings is to wet a paper towel with a bleach water solution and let it sit on the problem area for 10 minutes, then scoop up the mess. Kaisner also suggests always wearing gloves and a mask when cleaning up rodent droppings.