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Deadly Virus Poses Danger Nationwide, Experts Say

A deadly virus passed to humans through dust particles from rodent droppings may be found all over the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and spring cleaning can aggravate the situation.

Dr. Emily Senay spoke to The Early Show May 30 about ways to prevent the spread of the hantavirus, which the CDC says has caused 101 deaths in the US, which is nearly half of all confirmed hantavirus cases.

The virus caused 26 deaths in May 1993 in the southwestern US, but the CDC says the virus has now been found on the East Coast, with one case in Florida, two in New York and three in Pennsylvania.

Senay says the best way to avoid contact with the virus is to seal your home from rodents like mice and rats, and to set spring-loaded traps for those that might find their way in.

If you do find mouse or rat droppings, or if you are cleaning a summer home, barn or shed that might have had winter visitors, Senay says to wet down areas that you are cleaning with a disinfectant like bleach. Don't sweep up dry particles of droppings, she says, since that is how the virus becomes airborne and is inhaled by people. Instead, use a mop.

When disposing of dead rodents, disinfect them first to kill traces of the virus.

Senay says that if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of hantavirus exposure--such as a flu-like fever, aches or fatigue, or shortness of breath or coughing, which are symptoms associated with the later stages of the virus, get to a doctor immediately. Although there is no known cure for the disease, Senay says treatment is necessary.

"Get medical attention right away if you have any of those symptoms," Senay says.
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