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Kanawha County officials report hantavirus death

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Health department officials said little about a Kanawha County resident who died of hantavirus, except that the victim had contracted the deadly disease while traveling to Yosemite National Park in California.

Kanawha-Charleston Health Department officials said lab results provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed that a local person had become the third victim of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the country in the past three weeks.

The disease cannot be spread from human to human, and there is no concern about a local outbreak, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, health department director.

"People do not need to freak out," Gupta said during a press conference Thursday.

Gupta would not confirm that the victim had traveled to Yosemite Park with others; however, he did say that it is typical for family members to travel to the park together.

But, the incubation period for any other individuals who also may have been exposed to the virus has already ended.

"We do not have any other cases of the disease at this time," he said.

 Gupta stressed that the disease is very rare and there have only been 587 confirmed cases across the United States since 1993. However, the fatality rate is very high and 36 percent of the people who contract the disease die, he said. 

"But people travel all over the country and this is something they need to be aware of," Gupta said. 

The discovery of the virus has prompted officials at Yosemite National Park to close 91 tent cabins in Curry Village in Yosemite Valley, the Associated Press reported.

The double-walled construction of the cabin tents at Yosemite attracted mice that could easily nest between the walls. 

Gupta would not release the age or gender of the victim, nor would he say exactly when the victim had traveled to Yosemite. However, Gupta did say the victim had traveled to Yosemite since June.

He also would not release the exact date the Kanawha County victim died.

"We had a discussion with the family and they asked us to respect their privacy and not release any information," Gupta said.

 Eight confirmed cases of the disease have been reported since June. All eight have direct connections to the outbreak in Yosemite Park.

Gupta has sent an alert to health care providers in the state to inform them of the death and request that they stay on the lookout for those suffering from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

Health care officials around the country are investigating other potential cases of the disease, Gupta said. 

Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups, such as the thighs, hips, back and sometimes the shoulders, according to a press release from the health department.

Victims may also experience headaches, dizziness and chills. Nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain are also associated with the disease.

Victims will also experience symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and pressure in the chest during the late stages of the disease, which typically occur about four to 10 days after the initial symptoms.

Symptoms typically appear two to four weeks after exposure, according to the press release.

Deer mice usually spread hantavirus, Gupta said.

The highest concentration of deer mice is in the state is in the Eastern Highlands.

The disease is carried in the feces, urine, and saliva of the mice. Humans breathe in the small viral particles from the dried rodent droppings and urine once stirred in the air, said Anita Ray, environmental services director for the health department.

Deer mice, which are the primary carry of the disease, do not typically inhabit homes. They typically are found in cabins or storage units, which are frequented less often by humans, Ray said.

"But that's not to say they (deer mice) couldn't get into a home in the area," she said.          

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at ;; 


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