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Oklahoma Panhandle resident dies as result of virus carried by wild rodents

A Texas County man contracted hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and died. It’s the third reported state death from the virus since 2013, the state Department of Health said.
by Kyle Fredrickson Modified: May 22, 2014 at 9:13 pm •  Published: May 22, 2014
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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.

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by Kyle Fredrickson
OSU beat writer
Kyle Fredrickson became the Oklahoma State beat writer for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com in July 2014. A native Coloradoan, Fredrickson attended Western State College before transferring to Oklahoma State in 2010 and graduating in 2012. Fredrickson...
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The state Health Department suggests preventative measures to reduce the risk of contracting hantavirus:

•Ventilate areas inside of closed buildings for at least 30 minutes before cleaning by opening doors and windows.

•Use rubber gloves and spray the rodent nest, dead rodents or droppings until soaked with a household disinfectant solution of one and a half cups of bleach in one gallon of water.

•Remove the nest or rodent(s) using a long-handled shovel or rubber gloves.

•Double-bag the nest and dispose in trash. People in rural areas may bury the waste two to three feet deep.

•Spray the area again with the disinfectant solution.

•Wear rubber gloves and wipe up the area with paper towels or rags and double-bag and dispose of them in trash container.

•Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after the cleanup.

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