Message #203

Date: Wed, 24 Jun 1998
Subject: Precautions Against Exposure To Hantavirus?

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From: Barb Roth

We are ready to dig a cave site near Bend, Oregon
where they recently had a case of hantavirus. Could
list members who've worked in rockshelters and caves
describe what they've done as precautions against
exposure to hantavirus? Please e-mail me at


SASIG Ed -- Try Links on SWA:

Health AZ Health Hanta Hanta Hanta CDC Hanta Hanta
Population Dynamics of the Deer Mouse HPS Case Information
Navajo Medical Traditions and HPS Prevent HPS
From: Cathy Spude The Kiva journal had an article in 1994 about procedures useful to reduce Hantavirus risk. See: Fink, T. Michael 1994 Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome and Southwestern Archaeologists: A Protocol for Risk Reduction. Kiva, Vol. 59, No. 3: 363. Archaeologists: A Protocol for Risk Reduction. Kiva, Vol. 59, No. 3: 363. From: James Charles In terms of working in areas infested with virus carrying rodent, the best defense is to consider alternative areas to work in because of deep soil deposits saturated with mice droppings and urine deposits. If alternative locations are not feasible, then the workers will have to wear special respirators (purple filters) that are individually fitted for each person and wear disposal outfits including gloves. Areas may need to be sprayed constantly with bleach mixture. The first thing to do is to have a contracted specialist collect samples from the site and have it analyze for hantivirus. From: Allen Dart Barb, I snail-mailing you a copy of a fieldwork safety precautions handout that we provide to every student in the Sabino Canyon Ruin field schools. Unfortunately, I don't have it on disk, but I think it was put together by Michael Fink. Other safety articles Fink as written and published in the AAS "Petroglyph" newsletter, including one on Hanta virus, are accessible on if you don't mind the time it takes to download the PDF plug-ins. Happy digging! From: Deb Dosh Fri, 3 Jul 1998 Subject: Hantavirus Response/Sample Contamination Barb, We are currently excavating a cave near Lakeside AZ. After speaking with Dr. Michael Fink, Arizona State Health Department, we followed this procedure in the cave: 1. Sprayed bleach and anti-virus, anti-bacterial Lysol on all surfaces in the cave and saturated all major deposits of droppings and all nests. Our only concern with this was the potential contamination of samples. 2. We are using heavy duty industrial dust masks inside the cave and outside during screening. You can also double the thinner masks. The catch here is that viruses can go through dust masks - so use the thick ones. If you want to be really sure about this, each crew member in the cave should use real respirators - the kind used for toxic spills, etc. (the expense is phenominal, however). On the plus side, bacteria cannot go through the smaller, less expensive dust masks. 3. Our main problem has not been with hanta virus, however. We have hatching insects in the cave (millions of them). We sprayed Raid for flying insects on all the cave walls. They reappear in all of our excavation units on a daily basis. We again have a problem with potential contamination of samples from the Raid. If anyone has information about the potential contamination of samples from bleach, Lysol or Raid, I would appreciate it. Thanks, Deb Dosh From: Linda Scott Cummings Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 17:27:09 Deb, Bleach is a strong oxidizer. That means that it can destroy organic remains. We use bleach to sterilize surfaces and containers and eliminate pollen. So, if you are spraying dirt in the cave prior to excavating, you are causing rapid oxidation (destruction) of the pollen. You will definitely affect any pollen samples that you take. You might just destroy part of the record or perhaps even all of the pollen present. Either way, a bad thing if you plan to take pollen samples. Did the health dept. say anything about their expectations of the anti-virus capability of Lysol or any other anti-virus products? I haven't looked at these products to see if any contain bleach. If they do, you will have a pollen problem. I have seen antiviral and anti-bacterial products that do not contain bleach. If they are effective against hanta virus, I'd strongly recommend that you use only those products and not bleach or products containing bleach. -- Linda Scott Cummings Date: Sun, 26 Jul 1998 09:37:04 -0400 From:
Rick Cronenberger, Historical Architect, National Park Service. Re: -- in response to an inquiry spraying for hanta in caves: I would caution against indiscriminate spraying any kind of poison in caves. You may end up killing a large number of other animals and insects that live there. If there is a bat colony, you probably already have poisoned them enough to result in a major die off in a few weeks. Caves are very sensitive environments, and poisons would probably take decades before they are eliminated. In addition, using raid in an enclosed space is not recommended by the manufacturer. If any of these creatures are listed as endangered, then you have even bigger issues to deal with. Dust masks will not work. A full or half face respirator should be used with a an high efficiency particulate cartridge type filter capable of filtering out very small particulate. This would be a very small micron diameter. Yes, it may be expensive, but a lot cheaper than becoming seriously ill or dying.

THIRD CO HANTAVIRUS CASE OF YEAR REPORTED 06/23/98 DENVER (AP) _ A Glenwood Springs man has recovered from the state's third case of hantavirus this year, a health official said. The man, who was not identified, was hospitalized June 10 and was released Wednesday. The other two Coloradans who contracted the disease died. State epidemiologist Richard Hoffman said Monday he does know how the man, in his mid-40s, was infected. Hantavirus, a respiratory disease, occurs in humans when they breathe in dust or mist from contaminated deer mice feces, urine or saliva. The disease was not identified until a 1993 outbreak in the Four Corners area. Since then, 185 cases and 81 deaths in 29 states have been reported. In Colorado, 13 cases, nine of them fatal, have been recorded. The three cases this year, coupled with a booming deer mice population, make it vital that rural residents be careful when working in areas where mice are found, Hoffman said. Suggestions include wearing a mask in barns, sheds and other buildings with mouse infestations and getting a cat to get rid of the mice. "A cat will reduce the number of rodents and will not become ill with hantavirus or transmit the virus to humans as long as the cat does not bring its prey indoors," Hoffman said. Cats should be vaccinated against rabies and dusted for fleas, he said. Early symptoms of hantavirus include fever, headache, muscle pain and nausea, followed by a cough and shortness of breath. Fluid builds up in the lungs and can lead to respiratory failure. Sean Buckley, 17, of Teller County died April 18 of hantavirus. Biologists believe the source was somewhere on his parents' sprawling sheep ranch. Cheri Newbold, 38, of Durango died June 13. She became ill after cleaning a horse stall. HANTAVIRUS SUSPECTED IN RENO MAN'S DEATH 06/18/98 RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Health officials are awaiting test results to see if hantavirus caused the death of a Washoe County man. Hantavirus is spread by exposure to deer mice urine and droppings. The man's name was not released, but authorities on Wednesday confirmed he had been a Washoe County jail inmate and participated in the sheriff's community work program. Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Towery said the man completed his sentence before checking into the hospital. The man died last weekend. Towery added that there is nothing to indicate he may have contracted the disease while on an inmate crew. "We did examine his participation in the program to see where he was assigned and what he was doing," Towery said. "But there's nothing to indicate that he contracted any tope of disease they could have resulted in his death while serving on any of his work crews on any of his assignments." Seven people have been infected with hantavirus in Nevada since 1993. Two people died. The disease begins with flu-like symptoms and progresses to difficulty breathing as capillaries leak and lungs fill with fluid. The buildup of fluid can cause breathing to stop. Southwest bracing for hantavirus return