The weather is warming and snow is clearing which means spring cleaning is beginning, with health officials recommending people keep an eye out.

As they're cleaning, they could very well be exposed to rodent droppings when inside or outside, and that carries a risk of hantavirus.

Hantavirus is spread by rodents through the air to humans and is most commonly spread through the droppings, urine, and saliva of infected deer mice.

Doctor Julie Kryzanowski, deputy chief officer of the population health branch at the Ministry of Health

"We do want people to be aware of that risk when they are working in these potential areas and potentially being exposed to the Hantavirus."

The Ministry of Health asks that people take the following precautions while cleaning:

  • ventilate the building by opening doors and windows, and then leave the area for at least 30 minutes before cleaning.
  • avoid using dry cleaning methods such as dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, or air-hosing.
  • use wet mopping methods and wear rubber or plastic gloves.
  • wear goggles and a well-fitting N-95 type filter mask when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings.
  • dampen areas contaminated with rodent droppings with bleach disinfectant and remove droppings with a damp mop or cloth.
  • steam clean, shampoo or spray upholstered furniture with a detergent, disinfectant, or a mixture of bleach and water.
  • wash exposed clothes and bedding with detergent in hot water.

Additionally, they detail some of the steps people can take to make sure rodents are outside of their building:

  • block openings that might allow rodents to enter a building;
  • store human and animal food, water, and garbage in pest-proof/resistant containers with tightly-fitted lids; and
  • move woodpiles or other potential hiding places for mice away from your home.

While Hantavirus infections are rare, Kryzanowski says that they can end up fatal.

"The most serious syndrome due to a hantavirus syndrome is a pulmonary syndrome. This is rare, but we in Saskatchewan do have one or two cases every year, and in half of those cases it is fatal. So it is quite serious."

"Usually people would be experiencing some symptoms about 3 weeks after they had exposure, but it can be anywhere between 1 and 6 weeks. The first symptoms people would be experiencing would be general flu-like systems, fever, muscle aches, but this can progress to a cough and shortness of breath, sometimes nausea and vomiting."

If people get to that point, Kryzanowski recommends they seek medical attention.