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Oregon Woman Dies From Rare Disease Spread By Rodents: What Is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

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A woman from Oregon died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, several days after contracting the rare disease that is spread by rodent droppings.

Health officials have previously issued a warning on hantavirus infections, which requires immediate medical attention to improve the chances of survival. What are the hantavirus signs and symptoms, and how can people protect themselves from it?

Woman Dies From Hantavirus Infection

Lindy Farr, a woman from Deschutes County, Oregon, recently passed away due to the rare and incurable disease named hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The Deschutes County Health Department confirmed that the sickness was Farr's cause of death.

According to a report by The Bend Bulletin, Farr went to Culver, Oregon before Memorial Day, May 28, to prepare their other home for a family visit. She took with her a vacuum cleaner to clean a loft in the barn, but Farr did not wear protective gear.

Sheila Hunt, Farr's neighbor and friend, said that on June 4, she came down with what they thought was just the flu. However, by June 7, Farr was finding it difficult to stay awake, prompting her husband to call 911.

Farr was confined at the intensive care unit at the St. Charles Redmond hospital in Oregon, and was placed on a ventilator by June 9. She was transported by air to the Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland the following day.

On June 13, Farr passed away. She was 67 years old.

"She was in good health," said Hunt. "You would have never in a million years thought she would have been gone in a week."

What Is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, one of the many diseases from rats and rodents, shows signs and symptoms similar to the flu after one week to eight weeks from inhaling dust contaminated by rat and rodent droppings.

Fever will be accompanied by muscle pain, headache, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue, before escalating into breathing problems. It should be noted that a third of people who contract hantavirus pulmonary syndrome die from it.

To prevent infection, people who are entering areas that possibly contain rodent droppings should be very careful, and wear protective gear if necessary. Instead of sweeping rodent droppings and opening up the risk of getting them in the air, the recommendation is to spray the droppings first with a 1:10 bleach and water solution.

Hantavirus is rare, and Farr's case was identified as just the 23rd infection of the disease in Oregon since 1993 and the seventh in Deschutes County.

Other reports of deaths caused by hantavirus infections this year involve a 9-year-old boy from Colorado and a 27-year-old woman from New Mexico. While the fatalities are tragic, hopefully they raise awareness regarding hantavirus pulmonary syndrome so that people may protect themselves from the disease.

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