Victim worked at Bodie
By Sheet Staff
Hantavirus cardiopulmonary infection is being blamed for the recent death of a seasonal state parks worker in Bodie. “Tests performed by both the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Viral Diseases Laboratory and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory were positive for Hantavirus,” according to a new report on Tuesday from Mono County Public Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson.
The victim, identified as Richard L. Johnson, who was known by his middle name – Laird, 61, had been sick with a flu-like illness for about 4 days, and after an examination at Mammoth Hospital, was quickly flown to Reno, where he died late last week. (Ed. Note: Johnson shared the first and last name of Mono County’s Dr. Johnson, but there is no relation.)
An investigation into the exposure and source of the infection will be carried out in cooperation with the Mono County Health Department, Environmental Health, and the California Department of Public Health, Vector-Borne Disease Section.”
Dr. Johnson advises the public to be on guard. Since there have been no reports of influenza in recent weeks, he said, Hantavirus needs to be considered in any case involving a serious “influenza-like illness,” which includes fever, body and muscle aches, headache, cough or respiratory difficulty.
Since 1993, when the disease was first recognized in the U.S., the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed 534 cases of HPS in 31 states; 36% of the cases were fatal. California has documented more than 40 cases, and in many of these, exposure has been in the Eastern Sierra counties.
Rodents, particularly the deer mouse, carry the virus that causes HPS, which is typically spread to humans when infectious material from rodents is inhaled. This occurs when fresh droppings, urine, saliva or nesting materials are disturbed and the air becomes contaminated. The Hantavirus can live in the environment for 2-3 days at normal room temperature; however, UV sunlight will kill the virus. Transmission peaks during the spring and summer months. HPS, at least in the U.S., cannot be transmitted from one person to another; nor can it be transmitted from farm animals, dogs, cats, or rodents purchased at a pet store to humans.
Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing Hantavirus infection. Seal up holes inside and outside the home to prevent entry by rodents. Trap rodents around the home to help reduce the population. Carefully clean up urine and droppings, dead rodents or nests, cabins, barns, sheds, or other outbuildings, heavy rodent infestations, food sources and nesting sites.
The Bodie case makes the third one logged in the Eastern Sierra this summer in Inyo and Mono counties. The other patients have both fully recovered. The Mammoth patient reportedly contracted the disease at home, whereas the Bishop individual’s case originated a work place.
Climber was former Ski Patroller
On Wednesday, Aug. 11, the Mono County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Team was dispatched to the Saddlebag Lake area to handle the report of a missing climber who had not returned to camp. The SAR team along with a CHP helicopter conducted a search for Robert Schultz, 60, from Lake Tahoe, Calif., who was camping with a group at Cascade Lake and failed to return from a day hike on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 10.
The steep terrain around the lake was searched by ground, air and with a K-9. Schultz was eventually found, deceased, near a steep rock wall west of the lake.
Schultz was reported to have been a lead member of Lake Tahoe Ski Patrol, an expert big wall climber and mountaineer, who was familiar with the local area. His death is believed to be a result of a solo climber fall –MCSD