Possible Hantavirus Case Sparks Concern - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Possible Hantavirus Case Sparks Concern

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YAKIMA--Kittitas County Health Officials believe Ellensburg Police Officer died after contracting the hantavirus.  Although the virus is often overlooked, it can be deadly.  Nearly one in three people who contract the disease die.  Although deer mice are the most common carriers of the hantavirus,  domestic rodents are typically safe.   Joan Gordon owns the Yakima Tropical Fish and Pet Village.  She takes plenty of precaution in dealing with the rats and mice they keep.

"We thoroughly clean our mice and rat cages weekly," Gordon said.  "[We] thoroughly sterilize them and carry only domestic mice, only domestic rats."

Pet stores are not the only place that works to prevent the disease.   Donna Roderick teaches kindergarten at Monitory Elementary School.  The school keeps a pet gerbil and guinea pig; they are prepared to alleviate parents' concerns.

"I'm sure it will come up because of the news," Roderick said.  "We're very careful to keep our storage area clean."

Health department nurses thinking may have contracted hantavirus at a firing range.   But deer mice can be found anywhere.   They are especially prevalent in rural places.

"You've got a cabin that you go out to in the spring," said Laura Charters, who works for the Yakima County Health Office as an Environmental Health Specialist.  "When you open it up you're going to want to take some precautions."

This high-profile hantavirus case has grabbed some peoples attention.

"If I saw any indication that I had a mouse infestation I would absolutely do something about it," Roderick said.

"They'll call just to make sure that they're doing the right things to keep themselves safe."

But an old-fashioned solution to a mice problem may be the best.

"I feel fairly secure," Harding said.  "I have a couple of cats and that seems to take care of the problem."

County health officers said people should clean up wild mouse droppings with a bleach-water solution, never by sweeping or vacuuming it.  County health officers said Yakima County has not had a hantavirus case since 2006