Dirty Little Secrets

by Calendar Hacksaw


Itís been six months or half-a-year since I last wrote about Hantavirus, so I figure itís time to do it again; springtimeís cominí and thatís when we seem to start reading news reports about it.

Why is that?

Well, for a couple of reasons, I suspect. First of all, Hantavirus canít survive below a certain temperature. I canít remember exactly what temperature it is, so Iíll leave that to your own research. Let me know what you find out.

Second, springtime is when most of us idiots head out to the old shed, barn or trailer to start cleaning up for the summer. And thatís when we run into the invisible devil.

So, letís get a head start on it, okay?

I must admit, Iím a lot less fearful of Hantavirus today than I was a year or two ago. Itís not that the disease has become less prevalent; itís just that Iím better educated. And so are you. But itís time for the usual disclaimer: Calendar Hacksaw is not an expert on Hantavirus, and youíre responsible for your own health and research. Iím just a rural columnist.

The key thing to remember is that bleach kills Hantavirus. Some say a 10% solution is sufficient; I say play it safe and go with 15%. As some of you know, Iím not very good at math, and figuring out 15% of anything is tough for me, which explains my poor tipping practices at the Cow Belle. But consider this: 100 beer cans full of water mixed with 15 beer cans of bleach equals a 15% solution. To trim that measurement down a little, try 10 beer cans full of water mixed with 1-1/2 beer cans of bleach. How you empty the beer cans in the first place is your business, but I could make a few suggestions.

Thereís been a few items of concern Iíve read in the newspapers during the past few months, so letís review them. Bear with me, itís just a hobby.

First of all, I was more than a little concerned, as Iím sure you were, about a January report from the Idaho Statesman about an airman at Mountain Home Air Force Base who contracted the virus. Officials said they werenít sure where he got it; heíd been on leave over the holidays, and they were trying to re-trace his travels over the past 45 days. Hell, I couldnít even answer that question about myself.

But the air base does maintain a horse stable, and infected deer mice were found there last June. I presume that since weíre talking about Idaho, a cold damned place, they keep the horse stables heated during the winter. Nothing like a nice, warm stable to keep the Hantavirus alive. I didnít even know the Idaho Air Force still flew horses.

From Omaha, Nebraska came word of another fella who was stricken, the second case to be diagnosed in that state. He survived, barely, after doctors induced a coma to take the load off his lungs and internal organs. He got hit in October, but being a young buck and in good health, he managed to return to work in January, 45 pounds lighter. Biggest complaint: memory loss. Canít recall anything you told him 5 minutes ago.

Where was I?

A couple of pretty good stories from outside the U.S.A. China Times reported that Taiwan has quite a Hantavirus problem in the eastern county of Hualien (pronounced "Loraine"). Two suspected deaths, and local officials are worried about a new strain. The government has now launched an effort to eradicate the rat population, estimated at 80 million, primarily in movie theaters, hotels and restaurants. Ask your travel agent. But I canít help wonder how anyone could possibly estimate the rat population with any degree of accuracy or certainty.

This is quite an important thing in China, where half the 150,000 confirmed cases of Hantavirus took place last year ("150,000 confirmed cases?" In one year? Whatís up with that?). Taipei is considering importing a vaccine from Mainland China, but first must determine if it would be effective. Personally, I think we need both a prevention and a cure, but letís work on the cure first.

The worst news for us locals came from Utah, where the Salt Lake Tribune reported that a team of research types from the State Universityís biology department found that all-terrain vehicles can help spread Hantavirus. What happens is this: The dune buggies, motorcycles, ATVs and whatnot force the damned mice into living in close quarters, spreading the disease at faster rates among themselves, sort of like venereal disease, but without the all-terrain vehicle connection. Just another good reason for our Sheriff to scrap his plans for a rural off-road vehicle unit.

Finally, from the Sacramento Bee in September came word that an unidentified female physician was stricken by Hantavirus and barely survived the ordeal. And where did the good doc pick up the bug? Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine, because either she doesnít know or she ainít telliní. Talk about keeping a dirty little secret!

Folks, occasionally a lot of us spend some time where we hadnít oughta be. And, yeah, weíd likely be in a world of hurt if anyone found out where weíd been. But Hantavirus is serious business, and I think each of us has an obligation to put the public good ahead of our own selfish concerns. So please, make this pact: if you think youíve contracted Hantavirus, spill your guts before itís too late. It you were attending an intimate little wine and cheese party with half a dozen like-minded "free spirits" inside a 12-foot Bellwood travel trailer manufactured in Aloha, Oregon circa 1953, thatís okay with us as long as you come clean before you die. Names arenít important; places are. Donít take your secret to the grave, or you might take some of us with you, and we never liked you very much anyway.

Calendar Hacksaw hangs out at http://www.calendarhacksaw.com, and he reminds you not to forget about adequate ventilation, too. With the windows wide open, a 15% bleach solution and enough empty beer cans, weíll all be around to enjoy Team Penning come Labor Day weekend.

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