||WINE COUNTRY HOME INSPECTIONS|
||WINE COUNTRY HOME INSPECTIONS|
Hantavirus Danger in Houses
If a house has a crawl space, there is a 100% likelihood that mice have visited and perhaps some rats. It has now gotten more serious than nests or droppings or tiny carcasses. Hantavirus is the name commonly applied to the pathogen that causes the rare yet potentially deadly disease known as hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HPS).
Symptoms of HPS
Although researchers are not certain as to how long the virus’ incubation period may last, it is generally believed to last up to five weeks. Symptoms of HPS will follow this period.
There is no known cure, vaccine or treatment that specifically targets HPS. However, if the symptoms are recognized early, patients may benefit from oxygen therapy. If the symptoms of HPS are recognized late, it is less likely that medical intervention will be helpful. The hantavirus kills roughly 30% to 40% of those who become infected.
Places Where the Hantavirus is Likely to be Encountered
Crawlspaces are the most likely locations that the hantavirus may be encountered. This is partly due to the fact that rodents are attracted to areas that are undisturbed by humans. Also, crawlspaces are generally dark places that lack ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can rapidly inactivate the hantavirus. The virus will be less likely to be dangerous in areas of the house that receive sunlight through windows. Open windows will also allow contaminants to vent from the home.
Homes that have not been occupied for long periods of time are more likely to experience heavy rodent infestation and hantavirus contamination, among other viruses and bacteria. Foreclosures, in particular, are problem areas. Inspectors should take special precautions when entering vacated homes, or areas in homes that are not adequately ventilated or exposed to sunlight.
The hantavirus can be transmitted to humans in the following ways:
The hantavirus cannot be transmitted from infected humans to other humans, or to any other non-rodent animals.
If inspectors must enter a rodent-infested area of a house, they should wear personal protective equipment. The primary mode of transmission for hantavirus is through inhalation, so a respirator is necessary. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that a half-face respirator is adequate, although other sources say that a full-face respirator (covering the eyes, nose and mouth) is required. To be safe, it is a good idea to wear goggles to prevent contaminated dust from coming into contact with the eyes if only a half-face respirator is being used.
The following are specific instructions from the CDC concerning appropriate respirators for hantavirus exposure:
Wear either a half-face, tight-seal, negative-pressure respirator,
Rodents that Carry Hantavirus
Four species of mice and rats have been confirmed as carriers of the hantavirus. The CDC offers the following information to identify them:
1) The deer mouse is a deceptively cute animal, with big eyes and big ears.
Its head and body are normally about 2 to 3 inches long, and the tail adds
another 2 to 3 inches in length. You may see it in a variety of colors, from
gray to reddish-brown, depending on its age. The underbelly is always white,
and the tail has sharply defined white sides. The deer mouse is found almost
everywhere in North America. Usually, the deer mouse likes woodlands, but
also turns up in desert areas.
2) The cotton rat, which you'll find in the southeastern United States
3) The rice rat is slightly smaller than the cotton rat, having a head and body