Officials with the Wyoming Department of Health are warning people about the potentially deadly hantavirus.

The virus, which is commonly spread by mice, can be fatal and, in fact, has killed seven people in Wyoming since 1999. The virus is spread through rodent urine, droppings, and saliva. People can become seriously ill and even die if they breathe in airborne particles containing the virus.

People can also become infected if they swallow the virus or are bitten by an infected animal.

Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti says people need to be especially careful when cleaning up areas that have been closed and unoccupied for a long time, including such things as cabins and other dwellings or unused garages. She says when working in such an area, doors and windows should be open to allow for ventilation at least 30 minutes before cleanup work begins.

When working in places that are especially dirty, dusty or infested with mice, people should wear respirators and protective clothing.

Health officials also encourage people to follow the following guidelines in areas that may be infected:

  • During cleaning, wear rubber, latex, vinyl, or nitrile gloves.
  • Spray rodent urine and droppings with a disinfectant or bleach solution until thoroughly soaked.  Combining 1 ½ cups of household bleach with 1 gallon of water is a good choice.
  • Do not vacuum or sweep urine, droppings, nesting materials or contaminated surfaces until they have been disinfected.
  • Use a paper towel (while wearing gloves) to pick up urine and droppings.
  •  After the droppings and urine have been removed, disinfect items that might have been contaminated.