Monday, August 30, 2010


Ever since the Black Death swept Europe between 1348 and 1350 A.D., rodents have had a public relations problem. This was the most deadly pandemic in human history (so far), killing between 30% and 60% of Europe's population (roughly 100 million people). That catastrophe was caused by a bacterium carried by fleas that hitchhiked to Europe from Asia on rats aboard sailing vessels.

Today, rodents are carrying a different kind of illness. This time it's a virus that goes by the name Hantavirus. The virus is transmitted via droppings, urine, and saliva and it causes pulmonary problems in humans when they inhale aerosolized virus. In other words, if you are in an area where infected rodents are nesting, or where they have pooped or urinated, you are at risk of inhaling the virus that has gone airborne.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, "anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk of HPS (hantavirus pulmonary syndrome)." The virus remains viable for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, and cold weather extends the life of the virus.

One guy who recently learned a hard lesson about hantavirus is Brad Erdahl. Brad was RV camping in Washington State when he noticed that a rodent had broken into his bread supply inside his trailer. He swept out the mouse and cleaned up a few droppings, then wiped down everything. It wasn't until after he arrived home that he started to feel flu-like symptoms that led to muscle fatigue, aches all over his body, and fever that topped out at 103 degrees F.

It wasn't long before he was in the hospital, in shock, suffering kidney failure and pneumonia. He spent 13 days in the hospital; 10 of those days were in the intensive care unit. His recovery has been slow, after leaving the hospital, and he says it might take several months to get back to normal.

What does all this have to do with urban or wilderness survival? An illness like hantavirus can spread like wildfire whenever there is an active rodent population. During disasters of every type, rats and mice seem to explode in population, carrying with them the seeds of disease that can be debilitating or even deadly.

How can you prevent the spread of hantavirus?

  • Control the rodent population around your house, out buildings, campsite, RV, refugee camp, etc.
  • Wear latex gloves and a dust mask when cleaning rodent infestations.
  • Take care not to stir up dust by vacuuming or sweeping.
  • Thoroughly wet the contaminated area with a bleach solution or household disinfectant to settle the dust and deactivate the hantavirus. Mix 1.5 cups of bleach in 1 gallon of water to make this solution.
  • Be careful when taking up contaminated materials, using a damp towel to prevent the spread of dust. Then mop the area, using the bleach solution. 
  • Spray dead rodents with disinfectant, then double-bag for disposal by burying or burning. 
  • Disinfect the gloves before removing them from your hands. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaner. 
If there are items you can't clean and disinfect with the bleach solution (books, for example), place them in direct sunlight for several hours. An alternative is to leave the area (after it has been rid of rodents) for at least a week. By the end of that time, the virus should have perished.

If you believe you have been exposed to hantavirus (particularly if you're feeling flu-like symptoms) see your doctor and inform him/her about your exposure to rodents or their nesting area. 

1 comment:

  1. Watch this video on Hantavirus survival using Himalayan Salt Inhaler & Brine solution taken orally.