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Hantavirus and the Classic Car

bhjelle at unm.edu bhjelle at unm.edu
Mon Dec 4 09:26:04 EST 1995

In article <49rsgh$b4n at newsbf02.news.aol.com>, JKeppy <jkeppy at aol.com> wrote:
>This is a question about the risks of hantavirus exposure in a particular
>situation.  I have an oldish Lancia which has been stored for some years
>in a barn on Lummi Island in northern Puget Sound.  All was well until I
>rented the adjacent land for pasturage and the resident mouse population
>moved into the car.  It is infested with two nests and dropping here and
>there on the floor.  Nest materials came from the inside of the seats so I
>suspect there are droppings in places it would be very tough to sanitize.
>     I have inquired with  an island naturalist and found out that the
>mice are likely deer mice, likely infected.  I have also been told by a
>public health official that the feces are only infected for 48 hours after
>having been dropped and that if I could kill the resident mice and
>isolated the car for 48 hours it would be safe to go in and clean up and
>tow the thing home.  After considerable phone calling I have not found
>this 48 hour theory confirmed by anyone else and have generally been
>warned against attempting a cleanup.  I have carefully put poisons in the

Using "molecular epidemiology" studies it has been possible
to show that at least one person has been infected with hantavirus
that was identical to one obtained from a mouse in a car,
in Arizona (complete genetic identity over ~500 nucleotides
of 2 segments). So, I would take car infestations most
seriously. The idea that virus remains infectious for 48
hours, is, as you suggest, just one person's idea. No proof.
The environment within a car is mostly pretty protected from
UV, especially where nests and droppings are likely to be 
found. You should check with the appropriate department of
health (Washington State in Olympia?) for recommendations,
but they will likely recommend that you put on HEPA mask
and gloves, keep the car ventilated while you go in and
spray down all areas with infestation with Lysol thoroughly.

Best bet is to check with your department of health though.


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