Washoe County confirms second case of hantavirus in less than 1 week

The deer mouse is known to carry hantavirus. It sheds the virus in its droppings, urine and saliva.

Proper cleanup

Washoe County shared these specific guidelines to follow when cleaning in areas with rodent activity:

Do not sweep or vacuum the area with urine, droppings, or nesting material.

A solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water should be used when cleaning urine and/or droppings. Let it set for 5 minutes before cleaning the area.

Wear gloves (i.e., latex, vinyl, rubber) and a face mask to avoid touching or breathing in viral particles.

Identify areas where mice are getting in and set traps.

Identify and plug openings that may allow rodents entry. A deer mouse can fit through an opening the size of a nickel. Plug holes using steel wool and put caulk around the steel wool to keep in place.

Washoe County health officials are warning residents to take necessary precautions following two confirmed cases of hantavirus in less than one week.

Both cases occurred in the county but outside the Tahoe Basin. One person died from the disease — making it the second fatal case of hantavirus in Washoe County since 2017.

Hantavirus is rare but potentially life-threatening. It is spread by infected rodents, most commonly deer mice, which shed the virus in their droppings, urine and saliva.

Humans typically contract the disease when they breathe air contaminated with the virus, although it also can be transmitted if a person touches a contaminated object and then touches their nose or mouth, according to the Washoe County Health District. Scientists also suspect that people can become sick if they eat food contaminated by droppings, urine or saliva from an infected rodent.

Hantavirus symptoms develop anywhere from a few days up to six weeks after exposure, according to the county. Initial symptoms can include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, chills and dizziness. Late symptoms develop four to 10 days after the initial symptoms and include shortness of breath and fluid buildup in the lungs, causing death by suffocation.

Although neither case earlier this month occurred at Lake Tahoe, Washoe County cautions that deer mice can be found throughout Nevada, including at the lake.

“Just because we haven’t had a (recent) case up at Lake Tahoe doesn’t mean there isn’t hantavirus up there,” Dr. Randall Todd, director of the Washoe County Health District Epidemiology and Public Health Preparedness Division, told the Tribune.

Placer County reported in 2018 that a deceased North Lake Tahoe man tested positive for the virus, the Tribune reported at the time.

Back in 2012, at least half a dozen visitors in Yosemite National Park became infected with the virus, which triggered the closure of more than 90 cabins at the time.

Washoe County notes that hikers and campers in areas that are common for heavy rodent infestation — such as old cabins, stables and barns — can be at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Cleaning in areas where mouse droppings, urine or saliva might collect — areas such as garages, sheds or storage lockers — also can put people at risk of the virus.

While it can be easy to distinguish deer mice from other rodents, there is no way to differentiate their droppings, Todd said. Therefore, it’s best to exercise caution when cleaning any rodent urine, droppings or nests. Avoid all wild mice and rats and take precautions when entering spaces where mice may have been.

Visit for information about the virus.

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