The Montana Department of Health and Human Services is asking the public to keep an eye out for deer mice and mice droppings.

"This weekend we're talking sunny and in the 60's," said Montana DPHHS epidemiologist Karl Milhon. "Everybody including myself decides they want to go out into the garage or into their cabin and clean them out. Unfortunately, little rodents have been living in there over the winter and a lot of them carry hantavirus."

Milhon says Montana has been tracking hantavirus for about 30 years and here's what we've found.

"We are, per capita, like the second most effected state," Milhon said. "We've had cases reported from at least 19 counties. Historically the counties with the most cases have included Beaverhead, Cascade and Glacier, but you shouldn't think that, just because you don't live in one of those ares you aren't affected. Hantavirus is in the rodents all over."

Montana has had 37 documented cases of hantavirus, nearly all of which required hospitalization and one-third of which resulted in death.

When cleaning areas where rodents may nest, take the following precautions:

  • Wear rubber or plastic gloves
  • Thoroughly spray/soak area with a disinfectant or mixture of bleach and water to reduce dust and disinfect the area being cleaned
  • Wipe or mop the area with a sponge or paper towel (throw away items after use)
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after removing gloves
  • Never sweep or vacuum in these areas as this can stir up dust and aerosolize the droppings