We have previously looked at the many reasons why packrats (also known as woodrats) can be one of the most destructive and stubborn pests your Arizona home can attract. The question we often get is whether or not packrats carry the dreaded hantavirus (HPS). Today we are “unpacking” the facts about hantavirus and if you should be worried about a packrat infestation exposing your family to this potentially life-threatening viral infection.
The Facts About Genus Hantavirus
There is an entire family of hantaviruses that have been identified and tracked by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Hantaviruses are zoonotic (can be transmitted to humans) and can cause a disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Thankfully, this disease is exceedingly rare because it can be fatal. If infected by HPS, the first symptom is usually a strong headache accompanied with other flu-like symptoms. Within a 2-5 day timeframe, severe breathing difficulty can weaken even healthy adults. This virus cannot be transmitted from person-to-person.
Can You Contract Hantavirus from A Packrat Infestation?
An encouraging sign is there is no known evidence that woodrats are among the four species known to carry the virus. However, deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) both share habitats with woodrats in the Arizona region. This means that packrats may not carry the virus at this time, but are at a higher risk to begin carrying it in the future.
Universal precautions should be taken because it is difficult to discern the differences between packrat droppings and those of the other species. Deer mice have been known to be attracted to the same structures as woodrats in search of food and shelter from the elements.
How To Prevent Hantavirus Exposure in Your Home
The good news is you are not going to get HPS in a passive way from everyday activities in high-traffic areas of your home. Most cases have been contracted by cleaning or disturbing disused areas with heavy long-term rodent infestations.
The activities that put you at the highest risk include handling rodent corpses without gloves or sweeping/scrubbing/mopping surfaces that have been soiled by rodent droppings without adequate protective equipment. If these areas are discovered, it is advisable to have them professionally cleaned by a crew that has access to protective equipment. Store-bought respiratory protection such as painter’s masks or surgical masks cannot protect you against hantaviruses. Effective preventive steps to dissuade infestation in the first place – like sealing cracks in the home – are recommended.
Do you need any help dealing with a packrat infestation or cleaning up its aftermath? Contact University Termite and Pest Control today to make an appointment with one of our on-call pest control experts.