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Dartmouth News
>  News Releases >   2004 >   September

Dartmouth employee diagnosed  with suspected case of Hantavirus

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 09/30/04 • Contact Public Affairs (603) 646-3661

A Dartmouth College employee who became ill recently has been diagnosed with what is suspected to be a case of Hantavirus, a potentially serious but non-contagious respiratory illness. The patient is believed to have contracted the illness during a late-August stay at a Dartmouth-owned cabin near the town of Errol in northeastern New Hampshire.  The subject tested positive for the virus, but the tests have not been confirmed.

The individual is the Merrimack County resident mentioned in a Sept. 30 announcement of the suspected case by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. (read the full press release from NH Department of Health and Human Services)

Hantavirus was first recognized in 1993 in the southwestern United States. It is spread when infected rodents, such as mice, shed the virus through droppings, urine, or saliva. People can then become infected by breathing in aerosolized droppings containing the virus. Symptoms usually occur within two weeks of exposure and can include fever, muscle aches, dizziness, chills, nausea, and vomiting.  Anyone with such exposure who experiences these symptoms should seek treatment by a physician.  Extreme cases of Hantavirus can cause Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which may result in respiratory failure and death. There is no specific cure.

Dartmouth owns the cabin, which is one of 10 cabins in a 27,000-acre wilderness preserve the College also owns, known as the "Second College Grant". The patient reported seeing several mice in the cabin while staying there, as well as mouse droppings, and there is evidence that the person came into direct contact with droppings on a blanket found in the cabin.

At the recommendation of the New Hampshire Public Health Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dartmouth has closed the cabin and two other nearby cabins until they have been cleaned and disinfected by trained and properly equipped technicians, a process expected to be completed by the end of this week.  Cabins Dartmouth owns in other sections of the preserve will be inspected.

The College has determined that none of its Dartmouth Outing Club Trips this fall used the cabins in question.  The trips are a series of annual week-long outdoor excursions offered to incoming first-year students just before orientation and the beginning of fall classes.

Dartmouth officials are working to alert approximately 350 individuals who have used the three affected cabins since May, when this year's occupancies began. The cabins in the Second College Grant are typically open from May through early winter each year. The cabins, used mainly by Dartmouth alumni, employees, and their guests, were in use at the time Dartmouth learned of the suspected case of Hantavirus.  The College immediately advised the occupants of the situation and assisted them in moving to other accommodations.

"We believe our records will allow us to quickly and effectively identify all individuals who should be alerted to this situation," said Andrew C. Harvard, Director of Outdoor Programs. "Our first concern is the well-being of anyone who has used these facilities, and we are working closely with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pursue that objective."

Those with questions may call (603) 646-9144, and further information on Hantavirus is available at the following websites:

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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