Local News

October 13, 2012

Suspected hantavirus case in the Adirondacks

KEENE — A suspected case of hantavirus has been traced to a mouse bite in a High Peaks lean-to.

The illness is a potentially fatal pathogen transmitted by rodents.

Usually, people contract the virus by breathing airborne particles of deer mice droppings and urine.

But Dr. Michael T. Vaughan, a professor of mineral physics at Stony Brook University, on a hiking trip at Mount Marcy Aug. 26, was awakened by a nibble on his finger that drew blood.

Mindful of rodent-borne disease, he sought medical care when he began to feel sick.

“I was bitten,” he said in a teleconference call Friday. “I knew all about these rodent-carrying diseases. A month later, when I saw my physician and was feeling ill, she sent me to the hospital. I was admitted to the hospital on a Friday (Sept. 28) and pretty much recovered by Tuesday, when I was released.”


The incubation period for hantavirus varies from one to six weeks, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control.

In an interview, Dr. Rekha Sivadas, a physician at Stony Brook Hospital, confirmed a blood test came back positive for hantavirus antibodies. 

“The initial lab result is in, still to be confirmed by the state and the CDC,” Dr. Sivadas said Friday.

“Based on their (Utah lab) criteria, the tests are being reported as positive. That’s why we are saying this is suspected at this time but not confirmed.”


Of 24 hantavirus cases reported in the United States last year, a dozen were fatal, according to CDC records posted online.

The virus, which Sivadas said exists naturally throughout the environment, can advance to become hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. 

It was first discovered in the United States in the Four Corners area of the Southwest in 1993.

“There are at least 30 different species of hantavirus found in different pockets all over the U.S. They are different variants of the same virus,” Sivadas said.

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