SAN DIEGO (CNS) - More rodents infected with hantavirus were found in San Diego County this year than last year, but that could be because the rodent population has increased following a wet winter, the county Department of Environmental Health reported Friday.
So far this year, 32 rodents have tested positive for hantavirus, compared to 21 all of last year, according to the department. County officials said infected mice and other rodents in the wild are not considered to be a big threat to people, but residents should be careful when infestations are discovered at home.
"People should never sweep up or vacuum rodent droppings and nesting materials," said county environmental health Director Jack Miller. "Instead, they should ventilate closed areas and use wet cleaning methods with a 10 percent bleach solution or other full-strength disinfectant."
People who inhale dust particles containing rodent droppings and nesting materials can contract hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which starts out being similar to the flu but can lead to severe breathing difficulties and is fatal in 36 percent of patients.
According to the DEH, mice carrying the disease are annually found throughout the county, but no San Diegans became ill from it last year. Only one person in the area has come down with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in recent years, the agency reported.
The best way to avoid contracting the virus is to clean rodent-infested areas, after allowing 30 minutes of ventilation, putting on rubber gloves and applying a bleach solution. Complete instructions can be found on the department's Web site at sdcounty.ca.gov/deh/pests/hantavirus.html.
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