Hantavirus warnings follows recent deaths in state, B.C.

KELOWNA, B.C. – British Columbia residents have been warned to be cautious about spring cleaning in areas infested by deer mice after a 14-year-old boy and a Washington state woman died from hantavirus.

The 14-year-old Naramata-area boy, previously healthy, began feeling ill two weeks ago, was initially hospitalized for respiratory distress on June 11, then was transferred to British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where he died Friday.

He was the fifth resident of the province in about a decade to die of hantavirus, which is transmitted mostly by deer mouse droppings.

A warning also was issued by the British Columbia Center for Disease Control after Sara Shields-Priddy, 44, who lived in Washington north of Lynden, died of hantavirus March 22.

Health officials say the risk of hantavirus typically rises when matter from dried mouse droppings is stirred into the air and inhaled during spring cleaning, especially in rural cabins, barns and garages.

The boy who died lived in an area that was known to have had a deer mouse infestation, and Whatcom County Health Officer Greg Stern said Shields-Priddy had “a long history of exposure to rat droppings and debris in a storage area.”

In May, a 49-year-old eastern Idaho man died from hantavirus, prompting officials with Idaho’s Central Health District to issue a hantavirus warning as well. And on Monday, state health officials received a report of a second Idaho man who contracted hantavirus and survived, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said.

The man who survived the virus was a farmworker from Cassia County in his 40s who developed symptoms while visiting family in Utah and was treated there, Shanahan said. The man’s name was not released.

Since 1978 there have been 21 cases of hantavirus diagnosed in Idaho. Seven were fatal.

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say environmental conditions this year could increase the risk of human exposure to hantavirus.

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