Hantavirus and How to Safely Clean Up After Mice

First identified in the early 1990s, HPS(Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome) is a very rare disease caused by becoming infected with the hantavirus. Since then just over 500 cases have been reported in over 30 states from all regions of the United States except for Alaska and Hawaii.

How do people get HPS?

The most common way people get HPS is when they breath in hantaviruses. This can happen when rodent urine and droppings that contain a hantavirus are stirred up into the air. People can also become infected when they touch mouse or rat urine, droppings, or nesting materials that contain the virus and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. They can also get HPS from a mouse or rat bite. It cannot be spread from person to person.

Do not sweep or vacuum up mouse or rat urine, droppings, or nests. This will cause the virus particles to go into the air, where they can be breathed in. 

How to clean up mouse and rat urine and droppings:

  • Wear rubber or plastic gloves
  • Make bleach solution by mixing 1½ cups of household bleach with 1 gallon of water. Smaller amounts can be made with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water.
  • Spray urine and droppings with the mixture of bleach and water. Make sure you get the urine and droppings very wet. Let it soak for 5 minutes.
  • Use a paper towel to wipe up the urine or droppings
  • Throw the paper towel in the garbage
  • Mop or sponge the area with the bleach solution
  • Spray gloved hands with the bleach solution before taking them off
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water after taking gloves off

How to clean up a dead mouse or rat in a snap trap and how to clean up a rodent nest:

  • Wear rubber or plastic gloves
  • Make bleach solution by mixing 1½ cups of household bleach with 1 gallon of water. Smaller amounts can be made with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water.
  • Spray the dead mouse, rat, or nest, as well as the surrounding area, with the mixture of bleach and water. Let it soak.
  • Place nesting materials or trap with the dead rodent in a plastic bag. If you plan to reuse the trap, get the mouse or rat out of the trap by holding it over the bag and lifting the metal bar. Let the mouse or rat drop in the bag. Disinfect the trap.
  • Seal the bag. Place the full bag in a second plastic bag. Seal that bag.
  • Throw the bag into a covered trash can that is regularly emptied or contact your state health department for information on other ways to throw away dead mice and rats
  • Spray gloved hands with the bleach solution before taking them off
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water after taking gloves off

What are the symptoms of HPS?

At first people with HPS will have:

  • Fever
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Fatigue

After a few days they will have a hard time breathing. Sometimes people will have headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Usually, people do not have a runny nose, sore throat, or a rash. If you have these symptoms seek medical attention.


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Keep Kids Safe Online

In this wired age, kids are much more “connected” with friends – possibly some they’ve never met in person. Teach your child how to use social media responsibly:

  • Set limits for the use of cell phones, the computer, and the Internet. Remind your child that you can check the web browser history and cell phone logs to know how these devices are being used. Use parental controls and passwords to block access to inappropriate websites. Use privacy settings on websites so only your child’s friends can view his or her profile.
  • Explain to your child the dangers of giving out personal information online. Teach your child not to share his or her phone number, address, picture, or other personal details with online friends without your permission.
  • Make sure your child understands that things he or she “says” on the Internet are never private. Posts made on websites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter can be seen by people they weren’t intended for. Posts can easily be misunderstood and can even cause trouble for you or your child. Supervise your child’s use of social networks, chat rooms, and email.
  • Comments made online are stored forever, and could be seen much later in time by family or prospective employers that will be searching the internet to find information about them. 

 Bullies Go High-Tech

You can now add bullying to the list of things made easier by technology. Teens today live much of their lives on the Internet. Online bullying, also called cyberbullying, can involve using the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send text or images that are intended to embarrass or hurt the other person.

Cyberbullying affects almost of all American teens, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. Online bullying has been used for the following purposes:

  • Pretending to be someone else in order to trick someone
  • Telling untrue stories or rumors about another person
  • Sending mean, vulgar, or threatening messages or images
  • Posting someone’s picture without his or her consent
  • Sharing private or sensitive information about a person

So the bullies bent on malice have new weapons. Their nameless nature can make the bullies bolder. The victim can be reached anytime, anywhere. A child can flee a school-yard bully just by leaving, but that won’t work in cyberspace.

Parents often don’t know of the problem because children hesitate to report it. Awareness is the first step, and education about preventing and managing cyberbullying is key.

So what’s a parent to do? It may not be possible to make a child bully-proof, but here are some ideas:

  • Remind your child: Don’t open e-mail or accept instant messages from unknown senders.
  • Block communication with the cyberbully. Delete email messages without reading them. Share your concerns about the bullying with a trusted friend, or better, a parent.
  • Don’t share your phone number, password, or e-mail address.
  • Don’t reply to any bullying or disturbing message.
  • Take a picture of the screen of the e-mail or message and save it as evidence, especially if the message is threatening to you. It will help the authorities in their investigation.
  • Never meet anyone in person that you have only known online.
  • Tell an authority figure at once if a threatening message shows up.
  • Report threatening contact right away to the service provider.
  • Educate yourself about Internet safety and how to deal with cyberbullying at Web sites such as StopCyberBullying.org and WiredSafety.org

A good rule of thumb to remember is that is you wouldn’t say it in person, you probably shouldn’t say it online. Parents need to watch for changes in a child’s behavior that can signal problems like bullying and talk with their parents about their online activities. Keep the Internet a fun and safe environment for your child.  

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Teenagers need to understand exposure to loud noise either from concerts or personal listening devices can lead to hearing loss. With multiple exposures to noise over 85 decibels, the tiny hair cells may stop functioning and the hearing loss may be permanent.

Concerts can range from 82 to 110 dBA
and can average close to 100 dBA.

Experts say today’s small music players also pose a big risk of hearing loss. One reason: The “earbuds” used with iPods and other MP3 players fit into the ears, not over them. That makes the sound more intense than old models. Their digital songs are distortion-free, too. That invites kids to dial up the loudness with no loss of clarity. Most portable music players can reach 120 decibels, louder than a lawn mower or chain saw.

Such constant pounding by loud noise can cause permanent harm to the fragile hair cells of the inner ear. Because it doesn’t cause pain, the damage can sneak up on kids years later. Even moderately loud noise can permanently damage the hair cells if the noise continues over time. The hair cells help send sound information to the brain; if they are damaged or destroyed, hearing loss results. The hair cells don’t recover or produce new hair cells to replace damaged cells.

Preventive steps

To lessen the odds of hearing loss, experts offer this advice:

  • Don’t allow a child younger than 12 to regularly use a portable music player.
  • Encourage your child to tune the player no higher than 60 percent of the top volume, or a little over halfway on the dial. The volume should be low enough to hear surrounding sounds and conversation.
  • Have your child use earphones that sit on top of, not inside, the ear.
  • Limit the amount of time the player is used each day.
  • Wear ear plugs at concerts
  • Use a smartphone sound meter application that measures decibel levels -
    iPhone – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/db-volume-meter/id353432115?mt=8
    Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=bz.bsb.decibel&feature=search_result
  • See a doctor if ringing or buzzing in the ears lasts more than a day.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets maximum time limits on exposure to sound levels:

A more immediate risk involves so-called “iPod oblivion.” Users tune out their surroundings so much that they risk accidents or assaults.

Limiting the amount of time the portable music player is used each day also counteracts the increasingly sedentary lifestyle of childhood that is contributing to the obesity epidemic among youngsters.

As we age we loose high frequency sensitivity. Business has capitalized by using what’s called The Mosquito to deter teen loitering. It emits an annoying 17.4kHz tone that only young people can hear. Teens also use Mosquito ringtones, in classrooms for example, because adults cannot hear them. If you can hear this tone chances are you are under 25 years of age – Mosquito Tone

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital physician about your hearing call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health and wellness.


Bee Stings

The two greatest risks from most insect stings are allergic reaction, which occasionally can be fatal in some individuals; and infection which is more common and less serious.

Most insect stings cause only minor discomfort, but stings can be painful and frightening. Over 95 percent of stings are from honey bees or yellow jackets.

What are the symptoms of a sting?

The following are the most common symptoms of insect stings. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Local skin reactions at the site or surrounding the sting, including the following:
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Redness
    • Itching
    • Warmth
    • Small amounts of bleeding or drainage
    • Hives
  • Generalized symptoms that indicate a more serious and possibly life-threatening allergic reaction, including the following:
    • Coughing
    • Tickling in the throat
    • Tightness in the throat or chest
    • Breathing problems or wheezing
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Dizziness or fainting
    • Sweating
    • Anxiety
    • Itching and rash elsewhere on the body, remote from the site of the sting

Treatment for stings

Specific treatment for stings will be determined by your doctor. Large, local reactions usually do not lead to generalized reactions. However, they can be life-threatening if the sting occurs in the mouth, nose, or throat area. This is due to swelling that can close off the airway.

Treatment for local skin reactions may include the following:

  • Calm the individual and let him or her know that you can help.
  • Remove the stinger by gently scraping across the site with a blunt-edged object, such as a credit card or dull knife. Do not try to pull it out, as this may release more venom.
  • Wash the area well with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to help reduce swelling and pain (10 minutes on and 10 minutes off for 30 to 60 minutes).
  • If the sting occurs on an arm or leg, elevate the limb to help reduce swelling.
  • To help reduce the itching, consider the following:
    • Apply a paste of baking soda and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Apply a paste of nonseasoned meat tenderizer and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Apply a wet tea bag and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Use an over-the-counter product made to use on insect stings.
    • Apply an antihistamine or corticosteroid cream or calamine lotion.
    • Give acetaminophen for pain.
    • Give an over-the-counter antihistamine, if approved by your doctor.
    • Observe the individual closely for the next hour for any signs of allergic reaction that would warrant emergency medical treatment.

Call 911 or your local emergency medical service (EMS) and seek emergency care immediately if the individual is stung in the mouth, nose, or throat area, or for any signs of a systemic or generalized reaction.

Emergency medical treatment may include the following:

  • Intravenous (IV) antihistamines
  • Epinephrine
  • Corticosteroids or other medications
  • Lab tests
  • Breathing support

Prevention of insect stings

Some general guidelines to help reduce the possibility of insect stings while outdoors include the following:

  • Avoid perfumes, hairsprays, and other scented products.
  • Avoid brightly colored clothing.
  • Do not go outside barefoot.
  • Spray clothing with the appropriate repellent.
  • Avoid locations where hives and nests are present. Have the nests removed by professionals.
  • Teach your child that if an insect comes near to stay calm and walk away slowly.

Some additional preventive measures for people who have a known or suspected allergy to stings include the following:

  • Carry a bee sting kit (such as EpiPen) at all times and know how to use it. These products are available by prescription.
  • Make sure your child wears long-sleeve shirts and long pants when playing outdoors.
  • See an allergist for allergy testing and treatment.

To make an appointment to see a HealthAlliance Hospital allergist call the physician referral line at (978) 665-5900. Like our Facebook page to receive Facebook updates about health.

Keeping Children Safe in and Around Water

Playing in the pool, the ocean, and even the bathtub can be good fun and exercise for a child. But did you know that a child can drown in only an inch of water? Hundreds of kids drown each year, so practicing good water safety is critical. Three important things you can do to keep your child safe are:

  • Always supervise your child in the water—even if your child knows how to swim.
  • If you have a pool, use multiple barriers to keep your child away from the pool when you’re not around. A four-sided fence is an ideal barrier.
  • If possible, learn CPR.

A fence with the features shown above is an effective way to keep children away from a swimming pool.

An easy way to help keep your child safe is to learn infant and child CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). This simple skill could save your child’s life.

  • All caregivers, including grandparents, should know CPR.
  • To find a class, check for one given by your local Red Cross chapter by visiting http://www.redcross.org. Or contact your local fire department for CPR classes.

Swimming Safety Tips

  • Supervise at all times.
    • Have a “water watcher” while kids are swimming. This adult’s sole job is to watch the kids. He or she should avoid talking on the phone, reading, or cooking while supervising.
    • For young children, make sure an adult is in the water, within an arm’s distance of kids.
    • Make sure all adults who supervise children know how to swim.
    • If a child can’t swim, pay extra attention while supervising. Also, don’t rely on inflatable toys to keep your child afloat. Instead, use a Coast Guard-certified life jacket. And make sure the child stays in shallow water where his or her feet reach the bottom.
  • Have your child take swimming lessons.
    • Give lessons according to your child’s developmental level, and when he or she is ready. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting lessons after a child’s fourth birthday.
    • Make sure lessons are ongoing and given by a qualified instructor.
    • Keep in mind that a child who has had lessons and knows how to swim can still drown. Take safety precautions with every child.
  • Make sure every child follows these swimming rules:
    • Only swim in designated swimming areas in pools, lakes, and other bodies of water.
    • Always swim with a buddy, never alone.
    • Never run near a pool.
    • Dive only when and where it’s posted that diving is okay. Never dive into water if posted rules don’t allow it, or if the water is less than 9 feet deep. And never dive into a river, a lake, or the ocean.
    • Listen to the adult in charge. Always follow the rules.
    • If someone is having trouble swimming, don’t go in the water. Instead, try to find something to throw to the person to help them out, such as a life preserver.
  • Follow these other safety tips:
    • Have swimmers with long hair tie it up before they go swimming in a pool. This helps keep the hair from getting tangled in a drain.
    • Keep toys out of the pool when not in use. This prevents your child from reaching for them from the poolside.
    • Keep a phone near the pool for emergencies.
    • Do not allow children to swim outdoors during thunderstorms or lightning storms.

Swimming Pool Safety

  • Inground pools:
    • Use several barriers, such as fences and doors, around the pool. No barrier is 100% effective, so using several can provide extra levels of safety.
    • Use a 4-sided fence that is at least 5 feet high. It should not allow access to the pool directly from the house.
    • Use a self-closing fence gate. Make sure it has a self-latching lock that young children can’t reach.
    • Install loud alarms for any doors or gates that lead to the pool area.
    • Tell kids to stay away from pool drains. Also, make sure you have a dual drain with valve turn-off. This means the drain pump will turn off if something gets caught in the drain. And use an approved drain cover.
  • Above-ground pools:
    • Follow the same barrier recommendations as for inground pools (see above).
    • Make sure ladders are not left down in the water when the pool is not in use.
    • Keep children out of hot tubs and spas. Kids can easily overheat or dehydrate. If you have a hot tub or spa, use an approved cover with a lock.
  • Kiddie pools:
    • Empty them of water after every use, no matter how shallow the water is.
    • Always supervise children, even in kiddie pools.

Other Water Safety Tips

  • At home:
    • Don’t use electrical appliances near water.
    • Use toilet seat locks.
    • Empty all buckets and dishpans when not in use. Store them upside down.
    • Cover ponds and other water sources with mesh.
    • Get rid of all standing water in the yard.
  • At the beach:
    • Supervise your child at all times.
    • Only go to beaches where lifeguards are on duty.
    • Be aware of dangerous surf that can pull down and drown your child.
    • Be aware of drop-offs, where the water suddenly goes from shallow to deep. Tell children to stay away from them.
    • Teach your child what to do if he or she swims too far from shore: stay calm, tread water, and raise an arm to signal for help.
  • While boating:
    • Have your child wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest at all times. And have him or her practice swimming while wearing the life vest before going out on a boat.
    • Don’t allow kids age 16 and under to operate personal watercraft. These include any vehicles with a motor, such as jet

If an Accident Happens

If your child is in a water accident, every second counts. Do the following right away:

  • Yell for help, and carefully pull or lift the child out of the water.
  • If you’re trained, start CPR, and have someone call 911 or emergency services. If you don’t know CPR, the 911 operator will instruct you by phone.
  • If you’re alone, carry the child to the phone and call 911. Then start or continue CPR.
  • Even if the child seems normal when revived, get medical care.

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Essential Guidelines for Fireworks Safety

Thousands of Americans, many of them children, are injured each year in incidents associated with fireworks, according to the National Council of Fireworks Safety. Most of these injuries occur during the Fourth of July holiday and include serious burns, loss of fingers, and blindness. 

Though the most disabling injuries occur with illegal firecrackers, such as M-80s, the majority of injuries are caused by bottle rockets, sparklers, and Roman candles.

Massachusetts has banned the use of sparklers, for one reason they burn at 1200 degrees and cause many burn injuries each year. It is recommended to watch the fireworks put on by the professionals and not to use them at all yourself.

Staying safe

Viewing public displays handled by professionals is the safest way to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth of July or any other day. Even then, keep a safe distance away.

If you plan to celebrate the holiday with your own fireworks, these precautions can help prevent injuries:

  • Don’t let children play with the fireworks.
  • Never place any part of your body over a fireworks device.
  • Make sure anyone who handles fireworks wears safety goggles to protect the eyes from flying sparks or debris.
  • Don’t use bottle rockets. Their flight paths are often erratic, and rocket launchers sometimes explode, sending pieces of glass or metal flying.
  • Don’t consume alcohol when using fireworks.
  • Read the cautionary labels.
  • Don’t try to re-light fireworks that have not worked properly.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of malfunction or fire.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Follow label directions.
  • Ignite fireworks outdoors.
  • Light only one at a time.
  • Buy from reliable fireworks sellers.
  • Never give fireworks to small children.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.

In case of eye injury

If an accident injures someone’s eyes, these actions can help protect the victim’s sight:

  • Don’t delay medical attention, even if the injury seems minor.
  • Don’t attempt to rinse out the eye. This can be very damaging.
  • Shield the eye from pressure. Tape or secure the bottom of a foam cup, milk carton or similar shield against the bones surrounding the eye–the brow, cheek and bridge of the nose.
  • Don’t give the victim aspirin or ibuprofen to try reducing the pain. These thin the blood and might increase bleeding.
  • Don’t apply ointment or any medication. It’s probably not sterile.

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