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Shannon County girl dies from hantavirus

Shannon County girl dies from hantavirus

  • Updated

A Pine Ridge girl died last week from the hantavirus.

The girl, who was younger than 10, died after contracting the virus on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Hantavirus was confirmed Friday, according to Barb Buhler with the Department of Health.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe and Indian Health Service have consulted with the South Dakota Department of Health since the death of the girl.

Buhler said the tribe and IHS will follow guidelines from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the cleanup and education efforts.

The girl’s death occurred in the same week that the state office for Public Health Preparedness held a mock hantavirus outbreak exercise in hospitals, long-term care facilities and clinics throughout the state.

Hantavirus is a potentially deadly virus carried by rodents and passed to humans when rodent urine, droppings or nesting materials are disturbed, sending droplets of the virus into the air. The droplets are then breathed into the lungs.

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In rare cases, people can be infected by being bitten by an infected rodent. Researchers also believe people can also become sick if they eat food contaminated by saliva or urine from an infected rodent. It cannot be transmitted between persons, according to the CDC.

Hantavirus causes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, a condition that can result in respiratory failure after the lungs fill with fluid.

Symptoms of hantavirus usually begin within two weeks of exposure with the earliest symptoms being fever, fatigue and muscle aches. While there is no specific treatment, outcomes are better if treated early, according to the CDC. In most cases, patients are intubated and given oxygen therapy.

In the United States, the deer mouse is the main carrier of the disease and the syndrome is more common in rural areas where rodent habitat exists.

South Dakota has had 15 Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome cases, which includes last week’s Shannon County case, from 1987 to present. Throughout the United States, there have been 587 cases in 34 states, according to the CDC. Of those cases, 36.39 percent resulted in death. In 2011, half of the 24 cases led to the death of the patient.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Health & Human Services Committee held an emergency meeting on Monday.

In a press release, OST President John Yellow Bird urged residents of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to educate themselves about the disease and how to prevent it.

“I would like to warn the surrounding panhandle of South Dakota and tribes in the Great Plains Region that hantavirus is here, that it knows no borders and can affect all ages, gender and races,” he said.

Contact Lynn Taylor Rick at 394-8414 or

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