Precautions for Workers in Affected Areas Who are Regularly Exposed to Rodents

Persons who frequently handle or are exposed to rodents (e.g., mammalogists, pest-control workers) in the affected area are probably at higher risk for hantavirus infection than the general public because of their frequency of exposure. Therefore, enhanced precautions are warranted to protect them against hantavirus infection.

Precautions To Be Used:

  • Workers in potentially high-risk settings should be informed about the symptoms of the disease and be given detailed guidance on prevention measures.
  • Workers who develop a febrile or respiratory illness within 45 days of the last potential exposure should immediately seek medical attention and inform the attending physician of the potential occupational risk of hantavirus infection. The physician should contact local health authorities promptly if hantavirus-associated illness is suspected. A blood sample should be obtained and forwarded through the state health department to CDC for hantavirus antibody testing.
  • Workers should wear a half-face air-purifying (or negative-pressure) respirator or PAPR equipped with HEPA filters when removing rodents from traps or handling rodents in the affected area.  (Please note:  the HEPA classification recently has been discontinued.  Under the new classification system, the N-100 filter type is recommended.  Read the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directive online, at “OSHA Directives: CPL 2-0.120 – Inspection procedures for the Respiratory Protection Standard”.)
  • Respirators (including positive-pressure types) are not considered protective if facial hair interferes with the face seal, since proper fit cannot be assured. Respirator use practices should be in accord with a comprehensive user program and should be supervised by a knowledgeable person.
  • Workers should wear rubber or plastic gloves when handling rodents or handling traps containing rodents. Gloves should be washed and disinfected before removing them, as described above.
  • Traps contaminated by rodent urine or feces or in which a rodent was captured should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution.
  • Persons removing organs or obtaining blood from rodents in affected areas should contact the Special Pathogens Branch, Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [telephone (404) 639-1115] for detailed safety precautions.

Precautions for Other Occupational Groups Who Have Potential Rodent Contact

Insufficient information is available at this time to allow general recommendations regarding risks or precautions for persons in the affected areas who work in occupations with unpredictable or incidental contact with rodents or their habitations. Examples of such occupations include telephone installers, maintenance workers, plumbers, electricians, and certain construction workers. Workers in these jobs may have to enter various buildings, crawl spaces, or other sites that may be rodent infested. Recommendations for such circumstances must be made on a case-by-case basis after the specific working environment has been assessed and state or local health departments have been consulted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the 13 major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is the principal agency in the United States government for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and for providing essential human services, especially for those people who are least able to help themselves.

Since it was founded in 1946 to help control malaria, CDC has remained at the forefront of public health efforts to prevent and control infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, workplace hazards, disabilities and environmental health threats.