Caution is advised when spring cleaning the garage, shed or cellar: the hantavirus can be lurking in dusty corners.
When the temperatures rise, the desire to clear out the basement or tidy up the shed increases, when the garden furniture has taken up its summer place again.
But just where a lot of dust is raised, there is also the danger of becoming infected with the hantavirus. The viruses are transmitted by the bank vole, which excretes the pathogens in saliva, urine and faeces. Outside the host, the viruses can remain infectious for several weeks. Therefore, the viruses can be inhaled together with the dust thrown up or enter the body via the mucous membranes even without direct contact with the mouse.
An infection usually goes unnoticed or only with mild symptoms. According to the health authorities, flu-like symptoms with sudden onset of fever, headache and back pain or nausea and vomiting are also possible. In severe cases, kidney dysfunction up to kidney failure can occur.
If an illness is suspected, the family doctor should be consulted. According to the health department, there is no vaccination or special drug therapy against hantaviruses, but fever or flu-like pain can be treated with drugs.
For a carefree spring cleaning, gloves and masks should be worn, rooms aired 30 minutes before cleaning, and surfaces dampened to reduce dust raising. Mouse carcasses and excrement should be wetted with commercially available disinfectants before disposal.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, the name “Hantavirus” derives from the Korean river Hantan-gang. During the Korean War in the early 1950s, several thousand soldiers fell ill with a severe fever. The virus responsible for the diseases was later identified and given the name “Hantaan”.