Rare infection kills Placer County resident

Placer health officials warn of dangers of hantavirus
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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A rare infection contracted from rodents has been found in tests on a Lake Tahoe area resident who recently died, Placer County health officials said Wednesday.

Health officials said tests confirmed that the person, who was not identified, tested positive for hantavirus. The resident likely contracted the virus from rodents in a private residence in the Lake Tahoe area, a statement from the county said.

Health officials do not believe the public is at ongoing risk from the source of infection associated with the fatality, the statement said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention count shows an average of about 30 cases reported annually nationwide. About 1 in 3 infections results in death. California averages two hantavirus cases a year.

In the western United States deer mice are the host for the virus.

"We are very sorry to announce that hantavirus was involved in this tragic death of one of our community members," Placer County Health Officer Dr. Rob Oldham said. "This unfortunate loss reminds us that hantavirus is very dangerous. But the silver lining is that hantavirus infections are quite rare and can be prevented.”

Rodents carrying the virus shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. People get infected when they breathe air contaminated with the virus. Most commonly this happens when someone stirs up rodent droppings or nesting material while cleaning a contaminated room such as a shed or a cabin.