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With the leaves turning and the mercury beginning to dip, outdoor rodents are set to seek out warmer environments like your home.

According to the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors, keeping mice out of your home is about more than just avoiding an encounter with an unwelcome house guest. In fact, it’s an important step in protecting the health and safety of your household.

Ateeb Khan with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors said the first step is prevention.

“Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime,” Khan said. “So it’s important to seal off any and all openings to your home.”

Khan said setting up mouse traps along the walls at your home’s entry and exit points is a good preventative measure, as well.

If mice do enter your home and you find droppings, Khan said disposing of them and cleaning the area properly is incredibly important in the prevention of hantavirus – a severe, sometimes fatal respiratory illness caused by the exposure to urine or feces of an infected rodent.

“Those droppings are dark in colour and resemble the shape of rice grains,” Khan said.

The first thing to do when encountering these droppings is to ventilate the area, letting the space air out for about 30 minutes, Khan said.

When it’s time to clean the area, Khan said to put on rubber gloves, soak the droppings in a solution of one-part bleach and nine-parts water, and let it sit for five minutes.

From there, you should pick up the droppings with a paper towel, dispose of them in a plastic bag, and remove them from the home.

“What we’re going to avoid doing completely is vacuuming or sweeping because it creates an aerosolized droppings that we can inhale,” Khan said.