- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Thursday confirmed the state’s first hantavirus death of 2014.

The Texas County man died due to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, a disease carried by wild rodents, and health officials believe the victim was exposed after dust was stirred into the air while cleaning a rodent-infested area, said Becky Coffman, an epidemiologist at the department.

Coffman said the man was over age 65, but she declined to release his exact age per department policy.

The death is the fifth due to hantavirus in Oklahoma since the disease was first recognized in the United States in 1993. There were two cases discovered last year, and both of those individuals died, the health department said, and all of the cases have been in northwestern Oklahoma.

Health officials are warning residents to be aware of the presence of wild rodents when cleaning up houses, barns or outbuildings, especially in rural areas.

Early symptoms of hantavirus can include fever and muscle aches, chills, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and coughing. Symptoms usually appear within two weeks of exposure to the virus, but can appear as early as three days to as late as six weeks after infection, the department said.

Infected rodents do not show signs of illness, but shed the virus in their urine, feces, and saliva.

Humans can be exposed to the virus by breathing in air contaminated with the virus when nesting materials are stirred up and tiny droplets or particles containing the virus become airborne. People can also become infected by touching their mouth or nose after handling contaminated materials, or through a bite from an infected rodent.

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Online: www.health.ok.gov