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Safety - Hantavirus

You are here: Safety > Health > Hantavirus

Personal health and well being should be a concern of all activities of daily living. This includes those activities that are done for recreational enjoyment. Though often not encountered, there are some health hazards that have potential exposure for those visiting our lands. To become familiar with these hazards, click on the following links for an in depth explanation of the process, potential for exposure, and safety measures.

For more information on health related hazards see:

Lyme Disease

Hypothermia and Frostbite

Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke


Hantavirus is a deadly disease transmitted by infected rodents through urine, droppings, or saliva. It is a respiratory disease that has been found mostly in rural areas of the western United States. The deer mouse is the primary carrier, but all rodents, including chipmunks and squirrels can be carriers.

The infection is transmitted by touching the moth or nose after handling contaminated materials, inhaling infected feces, or from the bit of an infected rodent. Signs and symptoms of the disease include the following: fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath, coughing. The disease will progress rapidly and will require hospitalization and ventilation within 24 hours.

Use the following tips to prevent contraction of the Hantavirus while on public lands:

  1. Do not have an accumulation of garbage or other piles that may facilitate nesting.
  2. Set rodent traps near camp areas.
  3. Keep all food and water covered.
  4. Clean up any spilled food.
  5. Place any wood, bricks, or stones at least 100 feet from living quarters.
  6. Keep pet food covered and discard any food not eaten by pets after each meal.
  7. Do not touch live or dead rodents or disturb their burrows, dens, or nests.
  8. Avoid sleeping on the bare grounds.
  9. Do not enter closed or confined structures for a long period of time without respiratory protection.

If exposure to rodents by bit, saliva, urine, or droppings should occur, and the above signs and symptoms appear, seek medical assistance immediately. Remember, the number one way to prevent contraction of the Hantavirus, is to avoid exposure.

US Forest Service
Last modified March 28, 2013

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