A squirrel pup. Photo by John Laundre

Two out of 11 rodents collected in late December from the San Timoteo Canyon at the Norton Younglove Reserve near the city of Beaumont have tested positive for hantavirus. The California Department of Public Health confirmed that the mice Riverside County Environmental Health officials submitted have tested positive for the virus. 

Over the past decade, about 10 percent of the rodents collected in Riverside County have tested positive for hantavirus. This is fairly consistent with the average for California. 

To date, no documented human cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have originated within Riverside County.

Inhaling tiny droplets contaminated by deer-mouse droppings and urine is how hantavirus is transmitted. 

“Infected rodents do not appear to show any signs of illness so it is important to keep from stirring-up materials while cleaning up any mouse-infested areas in and around homes, especially in rural areas,” according to a Riverside County Department of Environmental Health press release.

“Hantavirus can be a serious, even deadly disease when infectious material like mouse droppings and urine are inhaled,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer, said in a press release. “Taking simple precautions can greatly reduce your risk.” These are precautions recommended:

• Ventilate the affected area for several hours before cleanup by opening doors and windows. 

• Use rubber gloves. 

• Apply a 10 percent solution of bleach or household disinfectant to contaminated surfaces and allow at least 15 minutes’ contact time before removal. 

• Clean the affected area with a sponge or mop. Do not sweep or vacuum. 

• Double-bag any dead rodents and cleanup materials (newspaper, paper towels, etc.) securely in plastic bags and seal. 

• Before removing gloves, wash gloved hands in disinfectant or with soap and water. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after removing gloves. Dispose of gloves and cleanup materials with other household waste. 

For more information, call the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health office in Hemet at 951-766-9454. Information also is available on the department website at www.rivcoeh.org.