Hantavirus Outbreak Prompts Warning - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hantavirus Outbreak Prompts Warning

PASCO, Wash.- Health experts are investigating what may be another suspected case of the deadly hantavirus.

Those experts say it's common to have about one case a year in this area, but to have five already is a major concern, that's why they have a warning for anyone working around barns or anywhere where mice or other rodents might be hanging around, and they're even sending a letter to every doctor in the area to be on the lookout for patients.

"Actually this area, this barn is really quite well prepared, they clean it routinely, they don't have any signs of mice in there right now, but another thing is they have air flowing through here," said Susan Shelton with the Health District.

The outbreak of the potentially deadly hantavirus has health experts concerned.  Five cases this year, three of those in the last week.

"When I'm interviewing cases the link always is to an environment, whether it be in a storage unit, a barn, a cabin, someplace," said Heather Hill, R.N.

Those environments are usually unkempt barns, areas mice carrying the virus call home.

That's why health experts are warning people to clean up those areas, but not in the way you might think.

"You wanna look along the borders, along the edges, look for small little droppings," Shelton said.

She says sweeping is the worst thing you can do.

"It gets swirled up into the air, and you breathe it up in through the dust and the dirt that flies into the air, so you don't want to sweep, you don't want to vacuum, you want to get things wet and mop," she said.

The virus is contracted through the air.  Wetting down the area keeps it down.  Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and other flulike symptoms.

"What happens then is it progresses into a respiratory problem where a lot of fluid gets to the lungs and the lungs fill up with fluid and they go into a respiratory crisis," said Hill. 

That's where the concern lies. 

There is no cure.

One in three people who get the virus die. 

That's why health experts are warning people to stay out of those areas, and if you have them, make sure they get cleaned up.

Because the virus gets in the air, experts warn to air out an area for at least an hour before you start cleaning and when you finally do get in there you should still wear a mask, gloves and use disinfectant.