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Saskatchewan adult dies from hantavirus; health officials urge caution

Health officials in Saskatchewan say an adult from the southern part of the province is dead after contracting hantavirus.

Hantavirus infection is rare and is transmitted by breathing in airborne particles from the droppings, urine and saliva of infected deer mice.

Exposure can happen when people are camping, opening their cottage, getting an RV or boat ready for the season, moving woodpiles or cleaning out buildings.

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"We know that this person had cleaned out an outdoor building. I actually don't know whether it was a garage or a cabin ... and it was a building that was likely to have had an opportunity to be infested with mice," Denise Werker, Saskatchewan's deputy chief medical health officer, said Tuesday.

No details were released about the age or gender of the person who died.

Werker said the death underscores the message that everyone should be careful.

"This is the time of year where people are going to their cottages and cabins and cleaning them out and may be exposed," she said.

"And that's the message that we want to get out — people need to take the precautions. They need to be wearing gloves, goggles and masks if they're going up to their cabin. Farmers, too, if they're going into their barns at this time of year when they have been closed all season."

Werker says human infection by the virus is rare. There have been 27 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in Saskatchewan since 1994, nine of which resulted in death. Of those 27 cases, two-thirds were men.

People should get immediate medical attention if they develop a fever, muscle aches, coughing and shortness of breath within one to six weeks of exposure to mouse-infested areas, she advised.

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