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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ALERT: HANTAVIRUS - Epidemic Hazard in USA on Wednesday, 06 June, 2012 at 03:09 (03:09 AM) UTC



Infection with hantavirus can progress to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which can be fatal. People become infected through contact with hantavirus-infected rodents or their urine and droppings. The Sin Nombre hantavirus, first recognized in 1993, is one of several New World hantaviruses circulating in the US. Old World hantaviruses, found in Asia, can cause Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS). Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing hantavirus infection. All cases of Hantavirus infection are reported to and researched by the Viral Special Pathogens Branch (VSPB) of the CDC.

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 Two very different families, one in Salt Lake County and the other in Millard County, are looking for answers after their relatives died suddenly in the last month. Both families have been told that hantavirus, a rare but potentially deadly virus contracted from mouse droppings, could be to blame. Officials with the Utah Department of Health said Tuesday that lab results have been sent. But the family of Norma Martina Aguirre de S├ínchez, 47, remains unsure. The Delta family has a death certificate that lists the word "pending" as the cause of Sanchez's May 2 death at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. Sanchez's brother-in-law spoke in Spanish to the Deseret News Tuesday, saying the family wishes it knew why she died. They were originally told she may have contracted a "virus from a mouse" but no one confirmed the diagnosis nor told them how others could avoid getting sick. Relatives of 35-year-old Tyler Tidwell, of Herriman, are also awaiting confirmation after his "brief but intense struggle against an as yet unknown illness," according to an obituary. He died May 29 at LDS Hospital.

It remains unknown where or how the two contracted the illness, but state epidemiologist JoDee Baker confirmed that both were exposed to mouse droppings in the recent past. "It's been many years since we've even seen more than one case in a season," she said. "To have two fatalities so early in the season is concerning. Hantavirus is still out there. It's rare, but it is potentially deadly." While any case of hantavirus is extremely rare in Utah — there have been just 31 in the past two decades — most victims survive the illness, due to early diagnosis and ongoing supportive care, including physician-monitoring. Deer mice, a distant relative of the common house mouse or laboratory mouse in North America, are notorious for carrying hantavirus, transmitting it through their urine and feces. They are most active during the warmer months of summer and early fall, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contaminated dust from a disturbed pile of excrement can infect a person's respiratory system, specifically the lungs, leading to a respiratory failure (Hantavirus Pulminary Syndrome) that can cause death. Informing a doctor can help to prevent a fatal conclusion, but there is no known vaccine or antibiotics to combat the virus completely, Baker said.

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Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantaviruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic or unidentified diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Biosafety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.

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