The Dangers of Spring Cleaning

13 03 2013

spring-cleaning1Spring is nearly here. Does your yard beckon, displaying fast-growing weeds and frumpy foliage?

Mine calls to me, along with the garage, all of the windows, the closets, and every surface that is bespeckled with dust.

If you can’t fight the urge to clean, beware of the risks (you knew this was coming). If, however, you can resist the urge, feel free to use this list in your defense, should your SO wave a rake or sponge your way.

I can’t clean or do yard work . . .

—until I get my tetanus shot. Rusty nails, hoes, and rakes that are pokey and dirty, debris blown onto the yard from winter storms—they’re just waiting for me. (Swap out this Td shot for a one-time Tdap shot, get protected against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.)

—because I saw mouse poop in the garage and I don’t want to get hantavirus by sweeping up those virus-laden bits. I have delicate airways. (There are safe ways to clean up mouse droppings, but the SO doesn’t need to know that.)

—as long as there are mosquitoes in this world. West Nile virus is everywhere! And I can’t wear mosquito repellent while doing yard work because it smells funny, although that’s not the case when I’m kayaking. Strange.

—while ticks live in this world. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever—these are all insidious infections brought on by ticks. I believe I saw a tick on the bathroom wall last week. Possibly it hitched a ride on the dog, which shook it off while in the bathroom. I really have no other explanation.

These excuses are reasonable and clear. If your SO is having trouble swallowing understanding them, feel free to share our contact info.

By Trish Parnell

Hantavirus – Rare and Deadly

29 03 2010

Spring is here! Time to clean, to sweep, perchance to dust far corners.

But wait, are those rodent droppings? Does that look like a little critter’s nest inside your box of outdoor tools?

Those droppings may be perfectly harmless, or they may be full of hantaviruses.

The hantavirus is carried in the droppings, urine and saliva of various rodents.

The virus is transmitted by breathing in stirred-up dust and debris infected with the virus. It’s also transmitted by direct contact with rodent debris through small cuts in the skin.

The hantavirus is responsible for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).

Although only 20 to 40 cases are reported to the CDC per year, HPS is serious and can result in death. Initial symptoms include fever, fatigue and muscle aches. Other symptoms may include headaches, stomach problems, dizziness and chills. Symptoms can escalate and include shortness of breath and coughing.

The sooner you’re diagnosed, the better. It’s a serious infection and, as reported by NIH,  “Even with aggressive treatment, more than half of the cases are fatal.”

The hantavirus is found mainly in the southwestern part of the U.S., although cases have been reported in all the western states and many of the eastern states.

So, how can you prevent hantavirus infection?  The CDC says “Seal up! Trap Up! Clean Up!”.

Look around your home or work place and be sure all food, including pet food, is placed in tightly-sealed containers. Clean up food spills as soon as they happen. Eliminate food and nesting sources close to your home or place of work.

Do you currently have an infestation of rodents in your home? Check for entryways around your home, and seal any holes to keep rodents out. Continue to trap rodents until a week passes without catching new rodents. This allows for enough time to pass to ensure that the hantavirus is no longer infectious.

Finally, glove-up and carefully begin cleaning, following at least 30 minutes of ventilation of the area. You can wear a dust mask to protect against floating debris or dust, but it won’t protect you against viruses, so spray affected items and the area with diluted bleach to disinfect and help ensure the matter won’t become airborne when you clean.

Whatever you do, try not to stir up the dust that may hold the hantavirus! Don’t sweep. Carefully pick up and dispose of moistened rodent droppings and other evidence in garbage bags and then seal them.

For more information on how to safely tackle rodent debris, read all that the CDC has to say.