Be careful if you ever run across an infestation of mice or rats (rodents) in your workplace. Infestations can occur suddenly, due to weather changes, whereby mice and/or rats decide to congregate somewhere that is warm and/or dark. Once they have taken up residency, it can be hard to get rid of them. They can live in walls, stacks of boxes (warehouse), swim through drains, toilet plumbing, and will check out any available food lying around.
Rats and mice can carry hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and other life-threatening diseases which you get from droppings, urine residue, saliva, as well as biting you if you stick your hand in the wrong place. You do not always see where urine residue and saliva are left on packages or food packets, but if food packages in cupboards have been chewed on, throw them out right away.
Typical places of infestations occur in barns, ranch buildings, manufacturing and industrial plants (storage areas), sawmills, grain silos, utility substations, transport ships, and anywhere rodents can exist for a time without direct interference (i.e., cats, humans).
A pest control service should be called right away to get rid of them and then the contaminated area should be sterilized. Do not attempt to clean out the area yourself unless you have a hazmat suit with full covering. You should also use a filtered breathing system to protect your lungs from inhaling the odor and becoming infected that way.
Symptoms of HPS can occur between one to eight weeks after touching contaminated surfaces or encountering an infected rodent. Early-stage symptoms range from flu-like symptoms of fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. There are also chills, dizziness, abdominal issues to outright abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as the infection progresses.
In the later stage of infection, coughing, shortness of breath, and accumulation of fluid in the lungs occur, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The current death rate of HPS infection is 38 percent of the infected cases. There is no specific cure other than what the doctor might suggest, along with receiving oxygen therapy with intubation.
If you have had any rodent infestations at work and you feel like you might have the flu, visit your doctor immediately for medical testing. Tell your doctor you have been around a rodent infestation. The sooner it is diagnosed, the better your chances for surviving the virus.
COVID-19 has taught all of us that wearing masks and gloves are part of keeping ourselves as safe as possible from getting sick with just about anything. While not a perfect system, it is better than nothing. Washing hands often (even washing gloves while still wearing them) helps cut down chances for infection.
If you walk into an area that you see is infested with rodents, take pictures and then leave right away. Inform your employer right away. The employer should block off the area until an exterminator can come in and get the job done. At the same time, other areas on the job site should also be check for further infestation.
If you develop flu-like symptoms and medical testing shows that you are infected with HPS, file your claim immediately. Your doctor should regularly observe your symptoms and suggest a course of action to help with your recovery.
If you have questions about your claim, or circumstances surrounding your illness, call an Arizona Workers’ Compensation attorney to get more information. Arizona Injury Law Group offers experienced and Certified workers’ compensation lawyers and legal services for injured workers. Call for your free consultation! 602-346-9009.
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