Mice/Diseases in baby deer mice
I found 3 baby deer mice while cleaning out my barn on 4-20-15, and I accidentally destroyed their nest, and I didn't want to kill them so I decided to take them in and care for them. I think they were about 4-5 days old when I found them, so I think they are about 7-8 days old by now (4-23-15), and I was just wondering what the odds are of them carrying diseases at such a young age? I have heard many different answers, like, if a mouse caught the disease at such a young age, they would die. I have also heard that any mouse at any age could catch the virus, so I don't know which one to believe.... I live in MN so for the Hantavirus I know that the odds of them having that are super low to none, but I am slightly concerned about Lymes disease, and also the Hantavirus as well. I currently feed them about every 3 hours, but It is difficult because I do online school, watch 2 kids during the day, and have a horse to take care of and ride, but I refuse to let them die without me even trying to safe them. Those diseases concern me because I do not want to get it, or I don't want my family or any of the other animals to get it. Any information will be greatly appreciated.
The best way to prevent contracting any diseases would be preventative measures, such as washing your hands before and after touching them or any bedding, not getting your face close to bedding or breathing in dust from change-outs, and keeping them in a separate room or space from other rodents. You can wear disposable masks and gloves if you want an extra barrier. The only way to know for sure if they are carrying zoonotic diseases (those that pass from one species to another) is to have a lab test for it, such as sending in a fecal sample, and this can be expensive and take weeks to get results. It's possible a vet or vet school in your area may also be able to test, and the best way to find out is to ask.
Lyme disease is transmitted ONLY by tick bites, and although mice can be something called a "resevoir species," meaning they can carry the disease, they CANNOT give it to you. :)
There are some diseases that can be passed from mice to humans, including baby mice:
-Hantavirus: It sounds like you know about this one, but check the CDC's website for current information and occurrence maps. Hantavirus is contracted by breathing in particulates of waste, which is why I warned you to be careful when changing bedding and to wash your hands after handling. Although they should not have been exposed to infected waste yet, it is always a possibility, and can't be discounted. Disposable masks are affordable, however, and easy to use around feeding times if you want to be extra safe.
-Ringworm: Ringworm is a fungal infection which can infect all animals and people, as far as I know. It presents as an irritated or scabbed area on the skin and is highly contagious. It is, however, easily treatable should you, the babies, or any other animals start to show signs.
-Salmonella: This can be transmitted by their waste, so again, wash your hands thoroughly after feedings and pottying the babies. That's enough to prevent you from getting sick.
-Leptospirosis: Something that many animals and rodents can pass on to humans through their urine (including horses), especially if you have cuts on your hands. Good and prompt handwashing, as well as wearing gloves if you have broken skin, can help to reduce transmission. Lepto is not usually passed from person to person (if the children you watch are not touching the bedding or the mice, and you are washing your hands after handling the mice, they will be fine).
-There are a few other more rare conditions that are *possibilities* but not really likely, and all with detailed information are listed here on the CDC's user-friendly website: http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/direct.html
There is no way for me to know what things are and are not risks for the babies, but I would think if they were in your barn, you and your animals have probably already been exposed to most things they might have. The best practice is to behave as if they definitely have a disease - washing your hands after feedings and care, wearing gloves if you decide to or if you have broken skin on your hands, and wearing a mask when working with bedding (or cleaning out your barn). That way you're playing it safe, even if there's no actual risk, since there's no way to be sure without laboratory testing. Of course, this is not meant to scare you!! It's easy to think animals are bundles of disease once we start talking about "possibilities," but in reality, I'm only trying to help you minimize your risks. There's no reason not to try to help these babies survive until you can release them safely. There are only reasons to take precautions and keep yourself safe while doing so. :)
Let me know if anything was unclear or you have further questions, and good luck! Thank you for rescuing these babies.