Officials affirm Alpine County hantavirus case

GARDNERVILLE - Bloodwork on an Alpine County, Calif., man confirmed Monday he has hantavirus. Health officials have not yet determined where he contracted the disease.

The man is the 354th person in the United States to contract the virus. No outbreaks have been reported in Nevada, according to Rick Sowadksy, disease control specialist for the Nevada Department of Health.

Previously, 14 Nevadans have been diagnosed with the virus since its 1993 recognition.

"It's an extremely rare disease," Sowadsky said. "It's really, really rare. Physicians in the area are savvy enough to test for it."

The identity of the Alpine County man has not been released, but Alpine County Health and Human Services indicated the man has fully recovered from the virus, which has a 38 percent fatality rate.

Alpine County Health and Human Services is working to determine where the man contracted the virus.

"It's hard for me to say" when the origin will be determined, said Shelly Taplin, public health nurse with Alpine County Health and Human Services. "There are just some factors that play into the time frame that are difficult to predict. It's a matter of doing an on-site investigation and speaking with the patient, and that is going to happen in the very near future."

She said California is "endemic" for hantavirus.

"It's because we have the deer mouse population in certain sections of California, primarily the mountains in the Eastern Sierra. It's a matter of people being educated to what to look for when they go camping and when they starting cleaning out their garages."

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is transmitted to humans through the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. Humans might also contract the disease by breathing in the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sowadsky suggested the virus is pervasive.

"If you look for it you're going to find it," he said.

The national health organization tracks hantavirus through the homes of stricken people. That does not mean that the hantavirus was contracted in those areas, Sowadsky said.

"People move around so much," he said. "So it would be much harder to track where they got it."

For more information on the Internet about hantavirus, go to diseases/ hanta/hps/index.htm.

Some symptoms of the virus include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, headaches, chills and abdominal problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea and nausea, according to the CDC. Four to 10 days after the initial illness, coughing and shortness of breath occurs.

Maggie O'Neill can be reached at mo' or (775) 782-5121, ext. 214.


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