September 11, 2008

Hantavirus Kills Utah Man

A Utah man died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome after apparent exposure to rodent droppings, health officials said Thursday.

The last confirmed hantavirus infection in Utah occurred in 2004, the Utah Department of Health said.

The man, a resident of Duchesne County between the ages of 19-29 years, appeared to be otherwise healthy before he became ill. He was hospitalized on Sept. 2 and died the next day.

Health officials are investigating the death but suspect the man was exposed to hantavirus while cleaning up rodent droppings. Hantavirus is shed in the urine and fecal droppings of rodents. Humans can become infected by inhaling dust that contains dried contaminated rodent urine or feces.

The health department said extreme care should be taken when cleaning up rodent droppings. "Clean up rodent droppings using a wet method such as spraying disinfectant (diluted bleach) prior to cleaning, then use a wet mop or towel to moistened with disinfectant to clean," the agency said in a release. "Do not clean up rodent droppings using a dry method such as sweeping and vacuuming."