Rodent-Borne Virus Blamed in Death
A rare rodent-borne illness killed a 35-year-old chiropractor last week in Montauk, N.Y., state officials said Thursday.
David Hartstein started feeling ill nearly two weeks ago, according to Juline Godin, a close friend of his widow, Heather. At first, he and his wife thought it was the flu or Lyme disease. But before dawn on June 17, Hartstein had trouble breathing and started shaking and sweating, Godin said.
His wife called an ambulance that took him to Southampton Hospital, where his condition continued to deteriorate quickly as doctors scrambled to figure out what was wrong, Godin said. Hartstein died that evening.
Hartstein’s death is just the second confirmed case of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the state since 1995, according to the New York Department of Health. The other case was also fatal. There were 20 confirmed hantavirus cases nationwide in 2010 — mostly in the West, according to the department.
The lung infection is caused by a microbe sometimes found in the rodent droppings, saliva or urine. Health officials said Hartstein’s death appears to be an isolated case.
Family and friends suspect that Hartstein inhaled microscopic particles containing the virus while vacuuming out his family’s basement after a small flood nearly a month ago, Godin said.
Godin described Hartstein as a popular figure among East End surfers who was known for walking around town with his dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback named Naya. He and his wife had three young children, all under the age of six.
“He was a very cared-for member of the community,” Godin said. “Everybody knew him as Dr. Dave with the Rhodesian ridgeback.”
The family is staying with friends in the area while their house is cleaned and tested for more hantavirus particles, Godin said.
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