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HANTAVIRUS CLAIMS A MILLARD MAN

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A Millard County man has died of hantavirus infection, the fourth Utahn known to have succumbed to the rodent-borne disease since it was identified following a 1993 outbreak in the Southwest.

State epidemiologist Craig Nichols said Friday the middle-aged man died Wednesday in a Provo hospital, where he had been transferred after falling ill at his eastern Millard County home. His identity was not released.The man had not been sick long, Nichols said.

"This appears to be a typical case" involving the sudden onset of respiratory failure, pneumonia and respiratory distress syndrome. "He'd only been sick a few days."

Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of antibodies to the hantavirus in the man's blood, he said.

It is the 10th confirmed case of hantavirus infection in Utah, Nichols said.

The virus is found in the urine and feces of deer mice and some other rodents. It is transmitted to humans through the air in dust after the wastes dry.

The virus was identified after an outbreak in the Southwest in 1993 caused several deaths. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has confirmed 145 cases in 25 states. Most have occurred in the West and Southwest, with the Four Corner states - Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah - accounting for 68 of them.

Half of the people who contract the disease die, Nichols said.

Utah has the oldest known case - an Emery County man who fell ill in 1958. He survived and, after the virus was identified, underwent tests that confirmed the presence of hantavirus antibodies, Nichols said.

The state also had an outbreak during National Guard exercises in central Utah in 1987. Two confirmed cases resulted in one death.

Nichols said the Millard County man was employed in agriculture and visited numerous outbuildings where rodents were present. Nichols said Juab and Millard counties have seen large rodent populations this year, and cold weather may have driven them indoors.

However, he said numerous other people also have visited those same buildings, and none have reported any symptoms.