Clean and safe: Take precautions with spring projects

Mary Cornforth Cawood
Mary Cornforth Cawood

Many of you read the public health updates and emerging issues releases from the Mesa County Health Department about various health topics in our community.  The first thing that probably comes to mind is how you can use this information to keep your homes safe and families healthy. But what about your businesses? Much of the information distributed through these releases applies to businesses as well. With warmer weather on the way, here are some relevant topics to keep in mind:

Hantavirus: Does your business have a warehouse or storage shed in need of spring cleaning? Rodents are carriers of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). They shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. When you open up storage sheds and outbuildings that have been closed for the winter, you can stir up urine, droppings and nests that release droplets into the air. Inhaling these droplets can infect you with HPS. This virus can be fatal, so it’s important to take precautions when cleaning. Air out enclosures before cleaning and don’t sweep or vacuum contaminated areas. Soak droppings and nesting materials with a disinfectant — one part bleach to 10 parts water — and be sure to wear gloves and a mask when you’re cleaning. In cases of a large infestations, consider hiring a professional remediation service.

Salmonella: Work in a pet or farm supply store?  The arrival of baby chicks and ducklings will be here before we know it. Salmonella is carried in the intestines of chicks and ducklings and contaminates their environment and the entire surface of the animal. Turtles and reptiles are also carriers. Because reptiles are particularly at risk for being a carrier, salmonella is often present on their skin. Children can be exposed to salmonella bacteria simply by holding, cuddling or kissing these tiny animals, so it’s important to monitor interactions between children and pets. Make sure to wash your hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, baby chicks and after contact with pet feces and cleaning cages. It’s also a good idea to have a place for customers to clean and sanitize their hands as well. For signs and guidance on preventing salmonella, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website located at

Rabies: Have you had problems with bat infestations in the past? Now’s a good time to prevent bats from nesting in your outbuildings and attics. Bats often enter buildings through open windows or doors, broken screens, open soffits, loose or missing roof shingles or where pipes and wires enter a building. Openings where walls meet the eaves at the gable ends of an attic also offer common entry points. Make sure to inspect the interior of your building for small openings. If you find one, use caulking, flashing, insulation or screening to seal those entry points. Place draft guards beneath doors to attics and fill electrical and plumbing holes with caulking, steel wool or weather stripping. What happens if you find a bat in your building? Don’t panic! Bats are rarely aggressive, even if they’re being chased. But they could bite in self-defense if they’re handled. Never touch a bat with bare hands. Always wear gloves when removing bats and avoid handling them if at all possible. If you are bitten, it’s extremely important to seek medical attention and keep the bat. If you have the bat that caused the bite, call Mesa County Animal Services at 242-4646 for further instructions.

Pesticide applications: Do you maintain the grounds and landscaping at your business or work for a landscaping company? Spring showers bring not only May flowers, but also weeds. If you plan on using pesticides for weed control, make sure to follow application instructions carefully and wear protective clothing, eyewear and a mask. Remember: The label is the law. Pesticides are also used to control pests like insects and rodents. Improper application of pesticides can expose you, your co-workers and even nearby properties to harmful chemicals that can make you really sick. Exposure to pesticides can produce shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches and eye irritation. If pesticide application is a part of your daily routine, be especially vigilant. Long-term exposure to pesticides is associated with chronic health conditions including, cancer and neurologic and reproductive problems. If this is a big job, consider hiring a professional.

Practicing good health and safety is the best insurance your business can have. Take necessary precautions when taking on those spring cleaning projects. Following good safety practices will save you time and money as well as protect the health of your staff.