Rodents can carry dangerous pathogens, like hantavirus. Hantaviruses are a family of viruses found worldwide. In the United States, deer mice and other wild rodents can shed hantavirus in their urine, droppings, and saliva. People can become infected when they breathe in contaminated air.
This can happen when cleaning rodent-infested areas in your home or vehicle – or when opening cabins, sheds, or outbuildings (like barns and storage facilities) that have been closed for the winter – which can stir up dust and dirt that contains urine, droppings, or nesting materials from an infected rodent.
The virus can also be spread if an infected rodent bites someone. Scientists also believe people may be able to get the virus if they eat contaminated food or if they touch something that is contaminated and then touch their nose or mouth.
In the United States, infection with hantavirus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Symptoms of HPS usually first look like the flu, with fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. Later symptoms of HPS include shortness of breath, cough, and difficulty breathing. HPS can be fatal, so it’s important to take these prevention tips with you anywhere that rodents may live.