Q. Can household mice in all parts of the country carry the hantavirus that recently broke out in Yosemite National Park?
A. A gray field mouse (the kind that most commonly gets into homes) doesn’t carry hantavirus. But the deer mouse and the white-footed mouse do. These mice are found throughout most of North America, but it’s estimated that only 10% actually carry the virus.
Hantavirus is shed in the urine, feces and saliva of infected mice. When the nests of infected mice are stirred up, the virus can become airborne and infect people who breathe it in. It also can be spread by direct contact with the infected droppings.
Keep mice out of your home by sealing up cracks and holes. Set traps if you notice rodent droppings, and use caution when cleaning nests. You can safely kill the virus by making a solution of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Spray nests until they become damp before removing.
The virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory infection that can be fatal. Flulike symptoms, which include fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, appear one to five weeks after exposure. Despite the recent outbreak, hantavirus infection is rare. There have been only 602 cases reported in the US since 1994.