Dr. David Hartstein, 35, of Montauk died at Southampton Hospital on June 17, after being brought in by ambulance earlier in the day with a high fever and difficulty breathing. He had been intermittently ill for several days prior, according to East Hampton Press.
State and local health officials have confirmed Hartstein died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rodent-borne virus.
Officials suspect that he had contracted hantavirus from mouse droppings in the basement of his home, which he had been cleaning recently.
The State Department of Health, Suffolk County Health Department and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating the incident, but at this time, it appears to be an isolated case.
Hartstein is survived by his wife, Heather, and three children.
HPS is an infection of the lungs caused by several different hantaviruses, a microbe that may be present in the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. Humans can become infected if they inhale microscopic particles from the droppings or urine of infected rodents. There are no known cases of human-to-human transmission of hantavirus, and pets and insects are not believed to have a role in transmission.
Cases of hantavirus have been rare and sporadic since the first human hantavirus infections were diagnosed in the southwest U.S. in 1993, but they can cause serious illness and could potentially be fatal. To date, CDC has confirmed six cases nationwide in 2011. There were 20 confirmed cases nationwide in 2010 and 20 in 2009, predominantly in the western U.S.
Since 1995, there have been two cases of HPS in New York State, including the patient most recently identified in Suffolk County. Both patients died from the disease. In the mid-1990s, two other cases of HPS were found in residents of other states who had potential exposure in New York.
Symptoms of HPS include high fever, muscle aches, coughing, and headache, which may appear between one and five weeks after exposure to the virus. Respiratory problems can worsen after several days, and the lungs may fill up with fluids, potentially causing respiratory failure or shock.
Suffolk County resident who have questions about rodent infestation should call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services at 631-852-5900 (Mon.- Fri., 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.). Additional information about infestation is also available from the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/index.html and http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/index.html.