How to avoid plague and hantavirus |

How to avoid plague and hantavirus

by Linda Hiller

Plague is caused by a bacterium found in wild rodents and other small animals which populate the Eastern Sierra.

The disease is usually transmitted to humans by fleas which live on the animals and then bite the humans.

It can also be transmitted by direct contact with the animals, dead or alive.

To avoid plague, Mono County Health Officer Dr. Jack Bertman recommends the following:

Avoid or reduce contact with these animals and their habitats, never attempting to feed or otherwise contact them.

Use insect repellents and wear long sleeves and pants while in the wild. Check your own pets for fleas and treat as needed.

Symptoms of plague include fever, chills, muscle ache, feeling weak and tender lymph nodes, or buboes, usually felt under the arm. The incubation period is two to six days. Plague is treatable if caught early.

– Hantavirus is carried by the deer mouse, a 4-to-7-inch-long brown mouse with a characteristic white belly and tail underside. The common house mouse is solid brown to gray and generally smaller.

Deer mice can be found under houses and trailers, in woodpiles, sheds and closed-up buildings like summer cabins.

Infected mice excrete hantavirus in their feces and urine, which dries out and becomes airborne dust when disturbed. Inhaling the contaminated dust is how the virus enters the body.

To avoid hantavirus, be careful when you notice mice and especially their droppings.

To avoid creating airborne dust, use a spray of bleach diluted one part to four parts water to moisten dusty areas. Collect this material wearing rubber gloves and place in tightly sealed plastic bags before disposing into the trash. Wearing a painter’s mask, available at hardware stores, is also recommended.

Any dead mice should be sprayed with the bleach solution before disposing in a tightly sealed plastic bag.

Symptoms of hantavirus include low fever, body aches and finally pulmonary symptoms. The incubation period is less definite.

Though the symptoms for both diseases are both similar to the flu, plague is much more intense.

Immediate medical attention is recommended.

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