A harvest mouse trapped last week near Escondido tested positive for hantavirus, prompting San Diego County public health officials Wednesday to remind people to be careful around rodents and guard their homes against infestations.

The mouse was caught in the Escondido-Pala area, according to the county Department of Environmental Health.

Harvest mouse. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

According to the DEH, common house mice don’t carry hantavirus. Mice in the wild can carry the disease and pass it to humans, who could contract hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which is rare but sometimes fatal.

People who live near open areas should take steps to prevent infestation.

“Remember two things,” said Jack Miller, the agency director. “First, avoid exposure. Second, don’t sweep up or vacuum. Use wet cleaning methods.”

Information on cleaning procedures is available on the DEH website. The key is to not stir up dust that can be breathed in.

The agency says people with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome will notice flu-like symptoms one to five weeks after exposure, followed by more serious problems like breathing difficulties. The disease is fatal in 38 percent of cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Miller said rodents rarely pose a hantavirus threat as long as they remain in the wild.

— City News Service

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