You probably didn’t know it but deer mice, cotton and rice rats and white-footed mice carry the potentially deadly Hantavirus.
This causes a disease known as Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Victims become infected by inhaling infected mice droppings, urine and saliva in dust/aerosol form. It is not spread through humans. Symptoms can take up to five weeks to appear and include a fever, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.
After these initial flu-like symptoms, victims experience shortness of breath and have coughing fits. The final stages of HPS disease include internal bleeding and breathing failure. Over half the reported cases of HPS have resulted in death. Although there aren’t many cases it’s as well to keep your house rodent-free.
Hantavirus can be killed by bleach, household disinfectant and UV rays but you must be careful not to stir up the dust. You should wear a HEPA mask while sweeping or cleaning. The virus can live for 2-3 days at normal room temperature. If you have been exposed to rodent infestations and display any symptoms described above, see your doctor immediately. Inform her of possible rodent exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control have maps of where these creatures live in North America, here.