Are There Rodent Pests In New York State That Are Capable Of Transmitting The Deadly Hantavirus Infection?

Four rodent species that are known pests of homes and buildings in the United States are capable of spreading multiple strains of hantaviruses. These rodent species include cotton rats and rice rats, both of which can be found in the southeast, and deer mice and white-footed mice, both of which can be found in the northeast. In New York state, only the white-footed mouse is associated with the spread of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), which is a severe, and often fatal, lung disease. The first reported case of hantavirus in the US occurred in the southwest in 1993, and most subsequent hantavirus cases in the country have occured in states west of the Mississippi River. Between 1993 and 2017, 728 HPS cases were reported in the US, the vast majority of which occured in the west, but at least five cases of HPS occured in New York state during this time.

In New York state, white-footed mice shed the virus in their feces, urine and saliva. Humans contract HPS by making direct contact with the excrement of infected mice, or by making contact with objects or surfaces that have become contaminated with the excrement of infected mice. Inhaling air contaminated with the virus is the most common way in which humans contract HPS. Much like house mice, white-footed mice maintain harborages within inaccessible indoor areas, mainly wall voids. The excrement of infected mice may build up within wall voids, putting the occupants of infested or formerly infested homes at risk of contracting the disease. While cleaning homes where infected mice are present or had just been eradicated, fresh mouse droppings, urine and/or nesting material can get stirred up, causing the virus to become airborne. HPS can also be transmitted through bites from infected white-footed mice, but such cases are quite rare.

Have you ever encountered white-footed mice within your home?