Colour enhanced transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of Hantavirus particles. Hantavirus is a respiratory disease carried in wild rodents such as deer mice. Mice do not appear ill while carrying the hantavirus. People become infected after breathing airborne particles of urine, droppings or saliva from infected rodents. Hantavirus causes flu-like symptoms that eventually cause the lungs to fill with fluid, making breathing difficult. Medical attention must be sought as soon as infection is detected. Most cases of Hantavirus reported in the U.S. have been in the rural Western states.

State health authorities have directed their investigation efforts to find out the possibility of Hantavirus disease as the reason for death of a Belmont Park track worker earlier this month. The Hantavirus disease is a rare infection which is the resultant of exposure to excretions of rodents. The suspected case of Hantavirus disease is among the 728 cases identified all over the nation since the first appearance of the rodent-borne disease in the United States in 1993 when 48 people were affected in an outbreak spread across four states.

The deputy health commissioner in the state office of public health, Brad Hutton, informed that the Hantavirus is extremely rare and over the course of last 25 years only five cases were identified among New York residents. The major cases of infection are associated with instances of people inhaling airborne particles of rodent excretion in confined areas. In his statement on Friday, Hutton also informed that since Hantavirus is not transmitted from person to person the visitors to Belmont Park are not exposed to any threats.

It is mandatory to report any suspected case of Hantavirus to the state health authorities in Albany that would be followed by a wide-ranging investigation launched by the state. The investigation includes assessment of people at risk, evaluation of circumstances leading to the infection and laboratory testing. Hantavirus infection is responsible for causing formidable pulmonary distress with the possibilities of kidney damage and hemorrhagic fever in certain instances. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate for Hantavirus infection is estimated within 30 to 50 percent.

Health authorities in New York obtained information about the Belmont Park case earlier this week through the Nassau County Department of Health that has documented information regarding the death of the track worker in the state’s special electronic reporting system. According to Hutton, the database’s design is specifically intended for notifying authorities regarding dangerous pathogens.

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