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How Long Hantavirus Can Live on Surfaces and Remain a Threat

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

How Long Hantavirus Can Live on Surfaces and Remain a Threat

I want to understand how long hantavirus can survive on surfaces, as this knowledge can help me assess the risk of infection and take proper precautions. Hantavirus is a rare but dangerous virus spread mainly by rodents, and humans can contract it by touching contaminated surfaces. Knowing how long it remains infectious can guide cleaning and disinfection efforts.

What Is Hantavirus and How Do Humans Get Infected?

Hantavirus is a family of viruses that are mainly carried by rodents like mice, rats, and voles. Different hantavirus strains exist across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In humans, hantavirus causes a rare disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), with symptoms like fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and shortness of breath.

Humans get infected by the virus when they breathe in contaminated dust from rodent droppings, urine, or saliva. We can also get infected by touching our eyes, nose, or mouth after touching contaminated surfaces.

Hantavirus does not spread from human to human contact. The only way for humans to get infected is by coming in contact with rodents carrying the virus or their contaminated environments.

How Long Hantavirus Survives on Surfaces

Hantavirus can survive on contaminated surfaces for time periods ranging from hours to days, depending on specific conditions. Key factors that influence survival time include:

  • Type of surface – Porous vs. nonporous. Porous surfaces like soil, wood, and fabrics allow longer survival than nonporous metal, glass, plastic.

  • Temperature and humidity – Cooler and damper environments extend survival time. Direct sunlight and higher temperatures shorten it.

  • Concentration of virus – Higher amounts of viral particles increase survival time.

  • Type of bodily excretion – Virus survives longer in rodent urine than saliva.

On average, hantavirus can survive:

  • Up to 3 days on contaminated wood, plastic, glass, metal, and fabrics.

  • 5-7 days in rodent nesting materials, like cotton and paper.

  • Up to 12 days in dust and soil.

  • 15-18 days in rodent urine and feces.

So even after rodents leave an area, their bodily secretions and excretions can keep hantavirus active on surfaces for up to 18 days under optimal conditions. Proper cleaning is necessary to remove the threat.

How to Remove Hantavirus from Surfaces

To remove hantavirus contamination, thorough disinfection using specific methods and agents is required:

  • Wear protective gear like gloves, goggles, mask while cleaning. Avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth.

  • Ventilate affected rooms first to lower virus concentration in dust and air.

  • Wet contaminated surfaces with a general-purpose cleaner and wipe thoroughly before disinfecting. This lowers the virus concentration.

  • Use EPA-registered disinfectants effective against viruses, like chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium, or alcohol solutions.

  • Follow product guidelines on methods and contact time required to kill viruses. Chlorine bleach may need 5-10 minutes contact time.

  • Focus on high-touch areas like doorknobs, countertops, sinks, toilets. Also disinfect carpets, drapes, and upholstered furniture in affected rooms.

  • Clean and disinfect twice. Repeating helps remove any remaining viral particles.

With proper protective gear and thorough two-step cleaning using effective disinfectants, we can remove 99% of hantavirus contamination from surfaces. But we must allow enough contact time as specified.

My Experience with Potential Hantavirus Exposure

I had a close experience with potential hantavirus exposure from contaminated surfaces when cleaning a neglected mountain cabin last summer.

The cabin had a serious mouse infestation problem. There were thick layers of droppings, urine stains, and nesting materials everywhere. Clearly the rodents had been living unchecked for months.

At first, I casually swept and tried cleaning the place, unaware of the risks. But later when I developed flu-like symptoms, I got worried. I realized there was high chance of hantavirus exposure from all the contaminated dust and surfaces.

I thoroughly disinfected the cabin following CDC guidelines – used bleach, hydrogen peroxide based cleaners, and disposable gloves and masks. I kept windows open for ventilation. It took me 2 full days re-cleaning the entire cabin properly. Thankfully my symptoms did not progress to HPS, but it taught me never to ignore rodent contamination again!

Key Takeaways on Hantavirus Survival Time

  • Hantavirus can survive on contaminated surfaces from hours to days depending on specific conditions.

  • It survives longest in rodent urine – up to 18 days under ideal conditions.

  • Cool, damp environments help hantavirus survive longer. Direct sunlight shortens survival time.

  • Porous surfaces like soil, wood, and fabrics allow longer survival than nonporous ones.

  • Thorough cleaning plus disinfection with chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol solutions helps eliminate hantavirus contamination and risk.

So knowing exactly how long hantavirus can linger on surfaces informs me on where risks are higher and how best to remove them. This awareness is key to preventing infection and staying safe in contaminated environments. With proper precautions, we can successfully manage exposure risk, even from stubborn viruses like hantavirus.

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