Press Release

May 25, 2005

IDPH gives Illinois citizens prevention tips to avoid infection

SPRINGFIELD Ill. – The Illinois Department of Public Health today announced a 22-year old man has been confirmed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, the second person in Illinois to be diagnosed with the rodent-spread disease. The state’s first case, reported in 1996, was a northwestern Illinois man who died from the disease.

The man was hospitalized in May with chest pain, difficulty breathing and bleeding from the nose, but has since been discharged and is recovering. He first exhibited symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, nasal discharge and cough in early May. The man worked in a Kankakee County greenhouse where rodent droppings were found but environmental investigators did not find a “serious” infestation or locate any live rodents at the business or a nearby farmhouse.

“Hantavirus is a rare but serious respiratory infection that could be life-threatening, but there are precautions you can take to avoid infection,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “Avoid contact with wild rodents, keep pests from your homes and buildings through rodent-proofing techniques and indoor pest control, and clean areas where there are signs of rodent infestation.”

The deer mouse is the most common rodent carrier of hantavirus in the U.S. The rodents that carry hantavirus are generally not found in urban environments, although sometimes they will come into homes in suburban areas. The common house mouse does not spread the virus. The deer mouse is tan or brown in color with white hair on the underbelly, while the typical house mouse is usually gray.

Hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they inhale dust contaminated by droppings, urine or saliva from an infected rodent. This disease can also be transmitted from bites inflicted by infected rodents or from direct contact with rodent excretions followed by touching the mouth or nose prior to hand washing. The incubation period is approximately two weeks but can range from a few days to six weeks. Symptoms can be similar to some types of pneumonia or common respiratory viruses like influenza. Symptoms may include: fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.

Since 1993, cases of hantavirus have been reported in more than half the states in the U.S. Cases often occur in the spring after spring-cleaning takes place in residences and businesses.

To minimize the risk of hantavirus citizens should:

  • Avoid contact with wild rodents.
  • Keep rodents away from buildings by keeping lawns mowed, homes free of debris, trash, and, wood piles should be at least 12 inches off the ground.
  • Deny rodents access to food, water and nesting sites and exclude entry to the building by using steel screens, caulk or weather stripping to seal holes or gaps around the house and garage doors. If openings near pipes and electrical wiring are present, seal with steel wool.
  • Keep food scraps and garbage in rodent-proof metal or thick plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Do not allow pet or animal food to sit out.
  • If rodents are present, use snap traps with peanut butter mixed with oats as effective bait.
  • Air out rodent infested places at least 30 minutes BEFORE cleanup.
  • Use diluted household bleach or products containing phenol on rodent droppings 15 minutes before cleaning areas contaminated by rodents. Personal protective equipment may also be recommended, such as, wearing rubber gloves. Dead rodents should be sprayed with disinfectant, like bleach and then placed in a sealed plastic bag containing enough disinfectant to thoroughly wet the carcasses. Make sure to wash hands thoroughly after cleanup. In areas with heavy accumulation of droppings consider hiring a professional.
  • Do NOT vacuum, use leaf blowers or sweep rodent-contaminated areas before cleaning, mopping or spraying with disinfectant. This could cause virus particles in the dust to become airborne.

Additional information on hantavirus and cleaning up after rodents is available at the IDPH Web site, and the CDC Web site,


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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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