Can you get sick from very old mouse droppings?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

It is possible to get sick from very old mouse droppings. When mice or other rodents are present, their droppings can pose a health risk. One of the potential dangers associated with rodent droppings is the hantavirus.

Hantavirus is a group of viruses that can cause a rare but severe respiratory illness called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). This virus is primarily transmitted to humans when they come into contact with or inhale dust particles contaminated with the virus from rodent droppings or nests.

The risk of getting sick from very old mouse droppings is still present because the hantavirus can survive in the environment for a period of time. The virus can remain viable in dried rodent urine and droppings for up to several weeks, especially in low humidity environments. Even if the droppings are old and no longer fresh, the virus can still be present and pose a risk of infection if disturbed.

It is important to note that not all mouse droppings carry the hantavirus, but it is difficult to determine which droppings are contaminated without laboratory testing. Therefore, it is best to take precautions when cleaning up any rodent droppings, regardless of their age.

To minimize the risk of infection, it is recommended to follow proper safety measures when dealing with rodent droppings. Here are some guidelines to consider:

1. Protect yourself: Wear disposable gloves, a mask, and goggles before handling or cleaning rodent droppings. This will help prevent direct contact with the droppings and reduce the risk of inhaling contaminated dust.

2. Ventilate the area: Open windows and doors to allow for proper air circulation while cleaning. This can help disperse any potential dust particles and reduce exposure to the virus.

3. Dampen the area: Before cleaning, lightly spray the droppings and surrounding area with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water. This will help minimize the release of dust and further reduce the risk of inhalation.

4. Avoid sweeping or vacuuming: Instead of sweeping or vacuuming, use wet cleaning methods such as mopping or wiping to clean up the droppings. Sweeping or vacuuming can aerosolize the dust particles, making it easier to inhale them.

5. Dispose of waste properly: Place the contaminated materials, including gloves and cleaning supplies, in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of them in an outdoor trash can with a secure lid.

It is also important to seek medical attention if you develop symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and difficulty breathing after being exposed to rodent droppings. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing hantavirus infections.

While the risk of getting sick from very old mouse droppings may be lower compared to fresh droppings, the hantavirus can still remain viable and pose a health risk. Taking proper precautions and following safety guidelines when dealing with rodent droppings can help reduce the risk of infection.