Hantavirus has not been confirmed in the mouse droppings found in the City-owned the old B.C. Sheep Breeders building, but precautions are in place for the cleanup.
City real estate manager Dave Freeman said Thursday contractors wearing proper respirators and hazmat suits will start dealing with the mouse droppings next week, treating the mess as though it contains the virus.
"We're just complying with WorkSafeBC regulations," he said.
"It's basically precautionary."
A fire at the back of the building in the spring revealed problems with the sprinkler system. The plumbing contractor who examined the pipes noted there were sprinklers under the floor in a crawl space.
He told the City he could do the repairs, but not until the mouse droppings were cleaned out due to WorkSafeBC rules.
At that point, rodent-control contractors were called to give an estimate on cleanup, which will run about $2,000 a day. Freeman said the work is expected to take three or four days.
The cleanup can't be done, however, until Western Canada Theatre's props are removed from the building. The company has a deal with the City to use the building for storage.
WTC general manager Lori Marchand said the City has offered a pristine bunker to store the props. It will be an easier space to seal up from mice as well.
Some of the old props that are no longer useful will be purged.
In spite of the hantavirus scare, no theatre staff have ever become ill from being in the sheep breeders building, she said.
"We have never had an issue, no illness. We've been in there for 20 years without any indications hantavirus was present," she said.
"We're pushing to try to get the move started by next week. We've already built the sets for the first show. We're pushing hard to get it done."
Freeman said the sheep breeders building is on a national heritage registry and the City will continue to maintain it. But it will be empty inside.
Once the mouse droppings are cleaned up, the plumbers can get to work on the sprinklers, he said.
The cleanup starts next Thursday.
Joyce Michaud, team leader and environmental health officer with public health protection, said deer mice are most commonly associated with hantavirus, but other rodents have been known to carry it as well.
The virus gets into people's lungs by being carried up into dust when the droppings are stirred up and it causes severe and potentially fatal pulmonary problems.
The virus is also a concern in farm or ranch buildings and cottages. Mouse droppings should be sprayed down before cleanup to keep the virus from moving into the air through dust. Proper breathing masks, gloves and suitable over-clothes are also required.
The health authority doesn't typically test for hantavirus unless someone shows signs of the disease.
Since 1994, eight cases of hantavirus have been reported within the region of B.C. covered by Interior Health.