This is not to alarm anyone, but just to put them on notice. In the Monday, June 21, 1999 issue of the Wall Street Journal under Health Journal, there is a story about the alarming rise of the hanta virus. It is now found in 30 different states, according to the CDC, Atlanta. It is a "virus" harmless to mice, but deadly to humans, and as yet there is no cure. The disease is caused by a microbe found in mice droppings, and the drier they become, the more dangerous they become, because the disease is pulmonary. The tiniest particle of it breathed into the lungs replicates, and causes death in 45% of the cases! (that tells me it isn't a virus, as claimed)
A 10% solution of clorox is strong enough to kill the microbe, but getting the clorox on it is next to impossible inside a piano. It is in the dust in the air, which then can circulate for a long time. The article didn't say what the resistance of the microbe to light is, or how long it is able to live in open air.
So far, there has been only 217 cases of illness, but the point is this: The disease is in its spreading phase right now, and no one is aware or worried until tens of thousands of people are suddenly taken with it. But when a baby mouse somewhere on the Channel Islands, off California's Ventura coast is found to have it, then we should realize this is serious. There is no place and no one that is immune.
Vacuuming and blowing out a piano with mice droppings is asking for it. A vacuum cleaner just redistributes the dust it collects and infects whatever home it resides in, if it is used. Each time it is turned on, it will send more microbes into the air and the entire family is at risk. Since pianos are reknown to be the Taj Mahal for the world's luckiest mice and a collection point for their conventions, those who rebuild pianos band organs, and musical instruments are at special risk as well as their household, possibly for weeks to come.
An organic mask may help, directly, I suppose, NY dept. of Health says that ordinary painters' masks are ineffective. They must be full masks with goggles with a HEPA rating or N-100 filter. They also warn against using "humane traps" and releasing the animals. Use only traps with poison bait, and dispose of them with gloves.
For those cleaning up old instruments, possibly protective clothing, full organic mask, a hair covering, and to clean up the piano outside in strong sun may be enough precaution, but I won't bet on it. Then to wet it all down with the clorox spray, strings, piano action, and all, and let the sun dry it. Don't worry about the moisture you're spraying in it. Worry about your life and family, and be on the safe side.
I also have a question as to whether or not solvents might not also kill the microbe (called a virus, but it isn't a virus, possibly a mitochondria. The virus is produced by our own immune system. It comes from us, ourselves). If something like naptha or alcohol killed it, then that would be a possibility. I'm thinking too about a combination of alcohol, clorox, and water for fast penetration into the piles of debris around the corners of a piano.
This isn't a far-fetched problem. It is one that is right at the door. And if, in 6 years, the "hanta virus" can spread from the southwest to 30 more states, and now, off the coast of California, then it's laying its deadly foundation from California to New York, and will be sooner or later strongly concentrated in the protective, dark recesses of pianos and stored instruments from coast to coast. Be careful, and just be aware.
Written by Craig Brougher
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