Rats and What You Need To Know To Prevent the Disease Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
What are Hantaviruses?
Hantaviruses are a group of viruses that may be carried by some rats or rodents. Some hantaviruses can cause a rare but deadly disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The disease is called HPS for short.
What animals can give people hantaviruses?
These are some of the mice and rats that can carry hantaviruses in the United States such as the Deer Mouse and the Cotton Rat.
Only some kinds of mice and rats can give people hantaviruses that can cause HPS. In North America, they are the deer mouse, the white-footed mouse, the rice rat, and the cotton rat. However, not every deer mouse, white-footed mouse, rice rats, or cotton rat carries a hantavirus. Other rodents, such as house mice, roof rats, and Norway rats, have never been known to give people HPS. Since it is hard to tell if a mouse or a rat carries a hantavirus, it is best to avoid all wild mice and rats and to safely clean up any rodent urine, droppings, or nests in your home. Dogs and cats cannot give people hantavirus infections.
Who can get HPS?
Any man, woman, or child who is around mice or rats that carry harmful hantaviruses can get HPS. You do not have to already be sick to be at risk for HPS. Healthy people have become ill with HPS.
While HPS is a very rare disease, cases have occurred in all regions of the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii.