- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A University of Montana student is recovering from a hantavirus infection that left him hospitalized for nine days.

Antonio Morsette, 20, of Rocky Boy said he began suffering intense headaches on March 5. He said his eyes hurt, he had hot and cold flashes and was easily fatigued. He went to the hospital on March 10 and was admitted the next day when his temperature reached 103 degrees and he struggled to breathe.

“When I took a breath it felt like nothing was going in,” he told the Montana Kaimin. “I was constantly gasping for air. I couldn’t talk. I had to use hand signs to talk to my family.”

He spent three days in a medically induced coma and two more days on a breathing tube. He was released on March 20.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were still investigating, but Morsette said they told him he likely contracted the respiratory infection while using power washers at the recycling center on campus, where he had worked since January.

During his job interview with UM Recycling, Morsette said he was warned about rodents in the recycling center. He often saw mice and their droppings in the facility, but didn’t know what hantavirus was until he was diagnosed with it.

“The CDC said we were not supposed to be power washing like we do,” Morsett told the Missoulian. “We weren’t wearing masks.”

Mice shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva and it is transmitted when humans breathe air contaminated with the virus.

Morsette said his parents came to the hospital and his father calmed him by singing and playing powwow songs.

“There were so many people that were praying and smudging for me that stopped by,” he said. “I was really surprised.”

He’s still working on fully regaining his health while UM closed its recycling center for a thorough cleaning.

“It’s pretty scary finding out that I could have died,” he said.

Ten Montana residents have died after contracting the hantavirus, with the first death in 1993. The most recent was 20-year-old Rhea Lynn Baxter of Bozeman in May 2013.

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