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Published June 04, 2012, 05:17 PM

Rodent Virus Kills Girl on SD Reservation

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A wake was held Monday for the first person on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to die from hantavirus, while Ogala Sioux officials met to discuss what could be done to educate tribal members about the disease spread by rodents.

By: Kristi Eaton, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A wake was held Monday for the first person on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to die from hantavirus, while Ogala Sioux officials met to discuss what could be done to educate tribal members about the disease spread by rodents.

Oglala Sioux President John Yellow Bird Steele said in a news release that hantavirus was confirmed last week as the cause of the girl's death. People can get hantavirus from contact with rodents or their waste, and it can eventually lead to respiratory failure.

Steele expressed sympathy for the victim's family and called on a variety of tribal programs and organizations "to immediately lend their support in whatever way possible to ensure that this tragedy does not strike again."

In South Dakota, the disease is most often spread by deer mice, according to the state Department of Health. A department spokeswoman confirmed it had received a report that a Shannon County girl age 10 or younger had died Wednesday and lab tests confirmed hantavirus as the cause Friday.

Sonia Weston, chairperson of the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Health & Human Services Committee, said in a statement that she had scheduled an emergency meeting with all health-related tribal programs and dealing with the issue would be the No. 1 health priority on the reservation.

The first case of hantavirus in the United States was detected in 1993.

In that case, a young, physically fit man began suffering from a shortness of breath and was rushed to a New Mexico hospital, where he died soon after, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While reviewing the results of the case, researchers learned that the man's fiancée had died a few days earlier after exhibiting many of the same symptoms. Rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. That material can be stirred with tiny dust particles and inhaled.

Hantavirus is not spread through person-to-person contact, and rodent control is important to preventing the spread of the disease, according to the South Dakota Department of Health.

Through 2011, there were 587 reported cases of the disease in the United States, including 16 in South Dakota and 12 in North Dakota, according to the CDC.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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