A Panhandle man has died as a result of a virus commonly carried by wild rodents, according to the state Health Department.
The man, who is only identified as being age 65 or older, was a Texas County resident. The state Health Department said he died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which has no cure, said Becky Coffman, an epidemiologist with the department.
Hantavirus is carried by wild rodents, especially deer mice, found in Oklahoma and southwest portions of the U.S. It’s transmitted to humans by touch or inhalation of virus particles shed by its host through fecal matter, urine and saliva. Data show it is most often contracted when people in rural areas are maintaining buildings with high rodent activity.
“This is the time of year where people are cleaning out empty buildings and this is when you’re going to run into it,” Coffman said. “When people start cleaning out where those rodents have been, they run into this trouble.”
It’s the fifth time hantavirus was reported in Oklahoma since the U.S. first recognized it in 1993. Two Oklahoma women died after contracting it last March and April, Health Department records show.
Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, cough and body aches. As the virus progresses, the lungs fill with fluid. Coffman said anyone who has been exposed to wild rodents and has these symptoms should contact their physician immediately.