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For the week of July 3 - 9, 2002


Blaine County resident dies of hantavirus

Express Staff Writer

A part-time Wood River Valley resident has died from hantavirus.

According to an obituary in The Idaho Statesman, Bradley William Coffin, 37, died June 24 at St. Lukeís Regional Medical Center in Boise.

Coffin, whose primary home was in Cascade, had owned Sawtooth Pest Control. According to South Central District Health, he had worked at various locales in the Wood River Valley for at least two weeks before he became ill, though it is not yet known whether he was in the valley for the entire five-week gestation period of the virus.

South Central District Health Epidemiologist Cheryle Becker said one other person worked with the pest control company for part of that time but has shown no symptoms of the disease.

Hantavirus is contracted by contact with rodents, like the deer mouse and cotton rat. Deer mice can be recognized by their white belly; the ordinary house mouse has not been associated with the virus. Becker said 10 to 20 percent of deer mice are infected.

The case was the 17th, and sixth fatality, in Idaho since reporting of hantavirus began in 1993.

Infections in the United States began in the Four Corners area of the Southwest, and have spread to 31 states, including all the Rocky Mountain and West Coast states. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 318 cases have been reported throughout the country, 37 percent of which have been fatal.

Transmission usually occurs when someone disturbs an area contaminated with rodent droppings or nesting materials. If those materials are swept or shaken into the air, the virus may be inhaled and produce an infection.

Hantavirus attacks the respiratory system. Flu-like symptoms, including a fever and muscle aches, develop one to five weeks after infection, followed rapidly by shortness of breath and coughing. Difficulty in breathing soon occurs.

No cases have been reported in which the virus was spread from person to person, according to South Central District Health.

The agency recommends that people take the following steps to avoid contamination:

∑  Keep mice out of your house and yard.

∑  Always air out barns, cabins or other enclosed areas for at least two hours before cleaning. Wear gloves and a filter mask and wet down infested areas with a disinfectant. Scoop up materialsódonít sweep or vacuum them. Seal contaminated materials in a plastic bag. Shower when youíre done.

∑  Stay out of cabins until disinfected and avoid sleeping on bare ground.

∑  When harvesting crops or animal feed, wear gloves and a mask if dust is generated.

There is no vaccine or medication for hantavirus.

"The only prevention is to keep from getting exposed in the first place," Becker said.


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