New York racetrack worker dies after contracting a rare rodent-borne virus

New York racetrack worker dies after contracting a rare rodent-borne virus at work, health officials say

A racetrack worker has died after contracting a rare virus found in rat droppings, health officials say. 

The employee, who has not been identified, was found unconscious June 1 outside the stadium‘s housing unit in Belmont Park, just east of JFK airport, where they lived.

They died June 6 at a hospital nearby.

A preliminary investigation suggests the employee died from hantavirus, which is spread by mice.

Most hantavirus cases are transmitted when people breathe in rodent droppings in confined areas.

The New York Racing Association says it will overhaul its pest control practices in light of the suspected hantavirus death, which happened days before the Belmont Stakes, an annual horse race that attracts visitors from all over.

Hantavirus is rare and cannot be spread from one person to another. 

Only 728 cases were reported in the United States between 1993 and 2017.

The virus is carried by deer mice, a type of rodent that can be found across the country, from the subway tracks in New York City to woodlands in California.

Humans can contract the virus by inhaling dust with particles of the mice‘ saliva, feces, or urine.

The virus can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a condition that infects the heart, lungs and other organs by weakening blood vessels and causing them to leak.

The body attempts to fight the virus by creating inflammation, which combines with the organ infections and leads to intense damage throughout the body.

In the lungs, leaky blood vessels cause flooding in the air sacs, making it difficult for patients to breathe.

When the virus infects the heart, the damage reduces its ability to circulate blood through the body, causing critically low blood pressure and a lack of oxygen throughout the body, which can quickly lead to organ failure and death.