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A.V. TEEN DIES FROM VIRUS SPREAD BY DEER MICE BOY'S DEATH IS SECOND IN STATE IN PAST MONTH.

Byline: CHARLES F. BOSTWICK Staff Writer

PALMDALE -- An Antelope Valley teen has died from hantavirus, a frequently deadly microorganism that was first recognized 13 years ago in a fatal outbreak among Navajo in the Southwest and which is spread by deer mice.

The boy's death was the second from hantavirus in California in the last month, and Los Angeles County health officials said the virus has been found among Antelope Valley deer mice but they don't know if the boy caught the disease locally, because he had traveled to a number of places in the weeks before he became sick.

``We don't know if we ever will identify a specific source. We're in the middle of the investigation,'' said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County's acting director of public health. ``The individual had been out of Los Angeles County to a number of different areas.''

Health officials did not identify the boy or say where he lived in Antelope Valley, under a department privacy policy. They said they will trap deer mice in areas he frequented and test them for hantavirus. Evidence of hantavirus in deer mice has been detected previously in some parts of the Antelope Valley, health officials said.

People catch the disease by breathing the virus through activities such as dusting or sweeping areas contaminated by rodent droppings or urine.

There is no specific cure. The usual treatment is to put the patient on an artificial respirator while the body's immune system fights the virus.

The last California death was in July of a 52-year-old Los Angeles County man who got sick while staying at a Mono County trailer park, state officials say.

Health officials said the Antelope Valley teen got sick in late July, complaining of fever, headache, shortness of breath and cough. He was hospitalized when his condition worsened, and he died of acute respiratory distress syndrome on Aug. 6.

A test by a state laboratory confirmed the illness was due to hantavirus, health officials said. An investigation is under way to determine how he was exposed, officials said.

The disease got widespread attention in 1993 as a mysterious pulmonary ailment that killed physically fit young adults among the Navajo people in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

Researchers soon linked the deaths to a previously unknown type of hantavirus, and found that it was spread by deer mice -- of which the Four Corners region that spring had a bumper crop because of heavy winter snow and rainfall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says.

Researchers later realized the hantavirus was not really new -- the earliest death they confirmed was of a Utah man in 1959, and Navajo healing traditions link mice in the home to deaths of strong, healthy people. Navajo elders say previous outbreaks occurred in 1918 and 1933-34, again after increases in rainfall, the CDC says.

Since 1993, researchers have identified different forms of the virus spread by different rodents: the rice rat in Louisiana, the cotton rat in Florida and the white-footed mouse in New York.

Since the 1993 outbreak, more than 400 hantavirus cases have been identified in 30 states, including more than 40 in California, the CDC says. More than one-third of victims have died.

The virus is spread in California and other western states by deer mice, which are distantly related to the common house mouse. Compared with house mice, deer mice are slightly smaller, with bigger eyes and rounder ears.

The house mouse doesn't spread hantavirus. The virus also doesn't spread between people.

Deer mice are gray to reddish brown on top, always with a white underbelly and with sharply defined white sides to their tails.

Experts say the best defense against hantavirus is to keep rodents away from homes: seal up rodent entry holes, set out traps, clean up rodent food sources and nesting sites and take precautions with cleaning rodent-infested areas.

Rodent droppings should never be vacuumed or swept, because that stirs up the virus into the air where it can be breathed in, health officials said. Instead, the area should be soaked with a diluted bleach solution, and cleaned with a damp towel.

HEALTH TIPS

Health experts' recommendations for cleaning rodent- infested areas:

Put on rubber, latex, vinyl or nitrile gloves.

Do not stir up dust by vacuuming, sweeping, or any other means.

Thoroughly wet contaminated areas with a bleach solution or household disinfectant. Mix 1(bul) cups of household bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Once everything is wet, take up contaminated materials with damp towel and then mop or sponge the area with bleach solution or household disinfectant.

Spray dead rodents with disinfectant and then double-bag them along with all cleaning materials.

Disinfect gloves with disinfectant or soap and water before taking them off.

After taking off the clean gloves, thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

(color) A deer mouse has a white underbelly and white sides on its tail.

Centers for Disease Control

Box:

HEALTH TIPS (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 16, 2006
Words:839
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