Local News

October 24, 2012

Hantavirus infection confirmed

ELIZABETHTOWN — State health officials confirmed a hiker contracted hantavirus while on an Adirondack camping trip.

“As part of DOH’s investigation, samples were sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing. DOH received CDC’s confirmation of the virus on October 17,” State Department of Health said in a statement late Monday.

Hantavirus is an infection, often fatal, spread by the droppings and urine of mice, particularly deer mice.

The illness was contracted by Dr. Michael Vaughan, a mineral physics professor at SUNY Stony Brook. He was bitten by a mouse on Aug. 26 and became ill in late September. 

He was hospitalized for nearly a week in intensive care. Blood tests initially done at Stony Brook University Hospital for hantavirus proved positive. Results were reported by the hospital to the Department of Health and the CDC.

Vaughan told the Press-Republican he had spent the night in Uphill lean-to near Mount Marcy, bearing the coordinates 44.108890 N, 73.960410 W.

The health concern prompted the State Department of Environmental Conservation to action.

“(DEC) will check and remove any food or other rodent attractants from within, under and around lean-tos in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness in the Adirondacks,” state health officials said in their press release.

“Trapping and testing mice in the Adirondacks are not recommended.”

Health officials recommend that hikers stay vigilant to “prevent rodent contact and assume mice can be carrying hantavirus anywhere in the state.”

In particular, they warned, most hantavirus cases come from breathing in dust from mouse or rodent droppings in cabins or garages that have been closed up.

DOH recommended “wetting down dusty areas” where mice have lived “with a combination of water and household bleach before cleaning up areas with possible rodent infestation.”

The hantavirus case also calls for vigilance in hiking etiquette.

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