Photo via San Diego County News Center
Photo via San Diego County News Center

A deer mouse trapped in Fallbrook tested positive for hantavirus, which can cause a potentially deadly respiratory disease, the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health reported Thursday.

The mouse was the seventh captured rodent this year to have hantavirus. County officials said San Diegans need to be careful when cleaning up rodent droppings.

“The best way to protect yourself is to avoid exposure,” said DEH Director Elizabeth Pozzebon. “But if you have to clean an area where rodents have been, don’t sweep or vacuum. Use wet-cleaning methods.”

Those methods are listed on the county’s website.

Hantavirus is not easily transmitted to humans, but if it happens, it can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which the county said is fatal 38 percent of the time. The disease starts off like the flu, but respiratory problems set in that can be deadly.

The rare instances in which people catch the disease happen when they sweep or vacuum places where infected rodents have nested. That’s because hantavirus can be inhaled if people disturb areas where dust from infected rodents, dried saliva, urine or feces can be kicked up into the air.

Ordinary house mice generally don’t carry hantavirus, but rodents in more rural areas can have the disease, according to the DEH.

—City News Service