Central N.D. resident dies of exposure to rare virus

BISMARCK The North Dakota Department of Health issued an alert Thursday that says a resident of central North Dakota died from complications related to contraction of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The resident had no underlying medical conditions prior to contraction and died in a hospital.

This is the first case of the hantavirus in the state since 2009 and only the 12th statewide case since 1993, when the virus was first recognized in the United States. Seven of the state cases were fatal. Infection usually occurs in rural areas.

“The general public is not at a higher risk of contracting hantavirus infection unless they are doing activities that put them in contact with rodent droppings, urine, saliva or nesting materials,” a statement said.

The victim of the virus was known to have been in contact with rodents prior to contraction.

“People can be exposed to hantavirus by breathing in air contaminated with the virus when fresh rodent droppings, urine or nesting materials are stirred up. Hantavirus is not transmitted from person to person. The greatest risk is associated with exposure to rodent droppings in closed, dry areas,” the statement continued.

The health department suggests ventilating work areas for 30 minutes prior to use, avoiding stirring up dust and dropping, using disinfectants in exposed areas, wearing protective clothing, mopping areas with disinfectant and washing hands immediately after cleanup.

Symptoms of HPS usually begin two to three weeks after infection and include fever, muscle and body aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea and vomiting before the illness strengthens to include coughing and severe shortness of breath as lungs fill with fluid.