Officials with the Wyoming Department of Health are reminding residents about the dangers of hantavirus.

The disease is a potentially fatal viral infection spread by rodent urine, droppings and saliva. Spokeswoman Kim Deti says it can also be spread by rodent bites. She says the biggest risk is in buildings that have been infected with mice, including summer cabins, barns and garages in addition to homes. The department is recommending a number of precautions to protect against hantavirus:

  • During cleaning, wear rubber, latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves.
  • Spray rodent urine and droppings with a disinfectant or bleach solution until thoroughly soaked.  Combining 1 ½ cups of household bleach with 1 gallon of water is a good choice.
  • Do not vacuum or sweep urine, droppings, nesting materials or contaminated surfaces until they have been disinfected.
  • Use a paper towel (while wearing gloves) to pick up urine and droppings.
  • After the droppings and urine have been removed, disinfect items that might have been contaminated:

--- Mop floors with a disinfectant or bleach solution.
--- Disinfect countertops, cabinets, drawers and other durable surfaces with a disinfectant or bleach solution.
--- Spray dirt floors with a disinfectant or bleach solution.
--- Disinfect carpets with a disinfectant or with a commercial-grade steam cleaner or shampoo.
--- Steam-clean or shampoo rugs and upholstered furniture.
--- Wash potentially contaminated bedding and clothing with hot water and detergent and use gloves when handling it. Machine-dry laundry on a high setting or air dry in the sun.
--- Leave books, papers and other items that cannot be cleaned with a liquid disinfectant or thrown away in sunlight for several hours or in a clean indoor area for about one week so the virus is no longer infectious. Wear protective gloves and wipe the items with a cloth moistened with disinfectant.
--- Disinfect gloves before removing with disinfectant or soap and water. After removing the gloves, thoroughly wash bare hands with soap and warm water.

In places that are especially dirty, dusty or infested with mice, extra protective clothing or equipment should be worn such as coveralls, shoe covers and special face masks known as respirators.  If a building has been closed and unoccupied for a long time, doors and windows should be opened for ventilation at least 30 minutes before work begins.