One Dead from Rodent-Spread Disease in Kanawha County

By: WSAZ News Staff Email
By: WSAZ News Staff Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Health officials in Kanawha County are confirming a death caused by Hantavirus that is connected to the on-going outbreak associated with Yosemite National Park in California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed this week that laboratory specimens have tested positive for Hantavirus in a Kanawha County resident who passed away recently as a result of the illness. The person had visited Yosemite National Park in recent months.

There is no cure for Hantavirus.

People can be infected by inhaling the virus or by handling infected rodents. Infected people usually have flu-like symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, chills and muscle and body aches.

Since June, eight confirmed cases of HPS have been associated with staying at Yosemite, while three of the ill persons have died. Additional suspected cases are being investigated from multiple health jurisdictions across the country. Providers are reminded to consider the diagnosis of HPS in all persons presenting with clinically compatible illnesses and to ask about potential rodent exposure or if they had recently visited Yosemite National Park.

In 2004, a Virginia Tech graduate student who was conducting field studies of small mammals in Elkins died after contracting the disease.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a rare disease spread by contact with infected rodents, primarily deer mice, whose densest populations in West Virginia are found in the high elevation forests. Most people with HPS are infected by breathing in small viral particles from rodent urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air.

The fatality rate of infected individuals is approximately 36 percent. Hantavirus is not contagious from person to person and cases are very uncommon in this state as only three have been associated with West Virginia since 1981.

Anyone who has symptoms consistent with presentation for HPS and has recently visited Yosemite National Park should contact their health care provider.

If you need additional information, please contact 304-348-1088 or visit the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department website, www.kchdwv.org.


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