Mouse Diseases

How People Get Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

Cases of HPS occur sporadically, usually in rural areas where forests, fields, and farms offer suitable habitat for the virus's rodent hosts. The peridomestic setting (for example, barns, outbuildings, and sheds) are potential sites where people may be exposed to the virus. In the US and Canada, the Sin Nombre hantavirus is responsible for the majority of cases of HPS. The host of the Sin Nombre virus is the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), present throughout the western and central US and Canada.

Mice may carry bacteria, viruses and other diseases. As a result, cleaning efforts following an infestation must be cautiously attempted.

It is important not to disturb dust particles or rodent feces in affected areas. Nest materials should also be left undisturbed during this time. Sweeping or vacuuming these materials may lead to the further release of harmful airborne particles.

House mice are covered in short hair that is light brown or gray to black in color, with lighter bellies. Their ears and tail also bear hair, although much less than their bodies. Adult mice weigh approximately 12 to 30 grams and can grow up to 20 cm from the nose to the tip of the tail. Droppings are rod-shaped and pointed on both ends.

Very inquisitive in nature, the house mouse will spend the day roaming its territory, exploring anything new or out of the ordinary. When available, the house mouse prefers seeds and nuts in its diet, but this opportunistic feeder will eat almost anything available.

When the temperatures outside begin to drop, house mice, since they don’t hibernate, begin searching for a warmer place to live. Often attracted by the smell of food and the warmth of a structure, the house mouse can use any opening, such as utility lines, pipe openings, and gaps beneath doors, to gain entry into a home.

The house mouse is known for its ability to reproduce very quickly. A single female is capable of producing up to eight litters per year with an average of six pups per litter. After a 21-day pregnancy, these house mouse pups are born naked, blind and dependent upon their mother for everything. At about 21 days the young are weaned from their mother and may begin to take short trips away from the nest to explore their surroundings. Most mice reach sexual maturity at about 35 days of age and begin mating when they are six weeks old.

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