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Hantavirus case is Utah’s 11th

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The Utah Department of Health has confirmed the state's 11th case of hantavirus. But this one, in Juab County, is somewhat different from others.

A man, age unknown, was treated for respiratory distress in June. But his symptoms were much less severe than physicians and health officials expect with the dreaded rodent-carried disease, which has a kill rate of 40 to 60 percent, said Gerrie Dowdle, manager of the Communicable Disease Control Program for the state's Health Department."The doctor did a good job spotting it, considering the fellow had quite mild symptoms," she said.

Blood tests, however, confirmed that he did indeed have an active case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and the findings were reaffirmed by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Now state officials are wondering whether the man, who they suspect was exposed to rodent nests while doing agricultural work, met up with a milder strain of the illness or whether he carried some kind of immunity that made the disease milder.

He's well on his way to making a full recovery, Dowdle said.

The last case of hantavirus in Utah was found in October 1996. In four of Utah's 11 cases, the patient has died from the severe respiratory illness.

The hantavirus is found primarily in the droppings, saliva and urine of rodents - especially deer mice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease seems to be transmitted both through the air - by breathing in contaminants - and by touching the mouth or nose after handling contaminated materials. It's less well-known whether a rodent's bite will also spread the virus.

Symptoms of the virus usually appear within two weeks of infection but can show up from three days to six weeks after infection, according to a memo announcing the hantavirus case released by Central Utah Public Health diretor Robert Resendes.

The early symptoms are general with a fever of 101 to 104 degrees, headache, abdominal, joint and lower back pain and sometimes nausea and vomiting. But the main symptom is difficulty breathing, caused by buildup of fluid in the lungs.