A fellow saneter emailed me and said that wild deer mice were not
the only carriers of the hantavirus. A web search revealed the following
information from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at:
Here are the rodents that carry the types of hantavirus that cause HPS in
the United States:
The deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) is a deceptively cute animal, with
big eyes and big ears. Its head and body are normally about 2 - 3 inches
long, and the tail adds another 2 - 3 inches in length. You may see it in a
colors, from gray to reddish brown, depending on its age. The underbelly is
always white and the tail has sharply defined white sides. The deer mouse
is found almost everywhere in North America. Usually, the deer mouse likes
woodlands, but also turns up in desert areas.
The cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus), which you'll find in the southeastern
United States (and way down into Central and South America), has a bigger
body than the deer mouse-head and body about 5 - 7 inches, and another 3 -
4 inches for the tail. The hair is longer and coarser, of a grayish brown
color, even grayish black. The cotton rat prefers overgrown areas with
shrubs and tall grasses.
The rice rat (Oryzomys palustris) is slightly smaller than the cotton rat,
having a head and body 5 - 6 inches long, plus a very long, 4- to 7-inch
tail. Rice rats sport short, soft, grayish brown fur on top, and gray or
tawny underbellies. Their feet are whitish. As you might expect from the
name, this rat likes marshy areas and is semiaquatic. It's found in the
Southeastern United States and into Central America.
The white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) is hard to distinguish fom the
deer mouse. The head and body together are about four inches long. You
should note that its tail is normally shorter than its body (about 2 - 4
inches long). Topside, its fur ranges from pale brown to reddish brown,
while its underside and feet are white. The white-footed mouse is found
through southern New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states, the
Midwest and into the western states and Mexico. It prefers wooded and
brushy areas, although sometimes it will live in more open ground.
Sometimes, the "country mouse" becomes a "city mouse" Both the deer mouse
and the cotton rat are usually in rural areas, but can also be found in
cities when conditions are right, such as easy availability of food, water
Other rodents may also carry hantavirus
It appears that other rodents carrying strains of hantavirus that cause HPS
are yet to be identified. In addition, yet other rodent species play host
to other types of hantaviruses that cause a different type of infection,
hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, or HFRS.
It is wise, therefore, to avoid close contact with rodents in general.
200-B Callecita Place
Santa Fe, NM 87501
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