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Navajo Girl Dies From Hantavirus

Navajo Girl Dies From Hantavirus
January 25
14:02 2016

A 17-year-old Cameron girl is the first victim of the Hantavirus on the Navajo Nation in 2016.hantavirus mouse

The death was confirmed by the Navajo Department of Health and the Navajo Epidemiology Center on January 19.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is a rare – but potentially fatal – disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The disease is not known to be passed from person to person,” said Del Yazzie, an epidemiologist with the Navajo Epidemiology Center. “It’s only through rodent droppings, urine.”

The incubation period for developing symptoms can be anywhere from seven days to three weeks. Most symptoms begin with a fever headache and muscle aches that lead to chills, dizziness and abdominal problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea or nausea.

“Hantavirus can also cause respiratory disease,” Yazzie said. “In some cases it can be fatal.”

“There is no known cure or vaccine for Hantavirus, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk of contracting the disease,” said Yazzie.

The deer mouse is most often the culprit in spreading the virus; with the

El Nino weather patterns making it more likely that the rodents are infected.

It is not known how the teen contracted the disease, but she lived in unsafe housing.

“The house is very dilapidated externally and internally,” Yazzie said.

The girl was active in her community and had a 4.0 GPA. She had Hantavirus symptoms when she visited the Tuba City Hospital, and died en route to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

The case is personal for Yazzie, because he said the dire situation was caused by poverty and poor living conditions. It is “highly likely” that the Bennett Freeze, which prevented housing upgrades for decades, played a role in the poor housing conditions, he added.

The Bennett Freeze on infrastructure and housing “locked residents into 45 years of extreme poverty,” according to Eric Descheenie, a staff assistant to Vice President Jonathan Nez.

“Though the freeze may be partly responsible, the abundance of trash and junk in the area also contributed,” said Yazzie.

The Bennett Freeze resulted from a land dispute between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. It affected 1.5 million acres in the western region of the Navajo Nation.


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