A 67-year-old Oregon woman died on Wednesday after contracting a rare, incurable disease typically transmitted through rodent droppings. The Deschutes County Health Department said the woman, identified as Lindy Farr, had been placed on a ventilator at St. Charles Redmond before being airlifted to Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland on Sunday.
A friend told the Bend Bulletin that around Memorial Day, Farr had taken a Shop-vac out to the family’s barn to clean out a loft that they used for guests.
“She had gone out with a Shop-vac. She didn’t know, as well as most people didn’t, that you should wear protective gear and all that stuff,” Sheila Hunt told the news outlet.
She said her friend began experiencing symptoms similar to the flu on June 4. By June 7, her husband called 911.
“She was in good health,” Hunt said. “You would have never in a million years thought she would have been gone in a week.”
According to the report, the case is the 23 hantavirus infection in Oregon since 1993, and the seventh in Deschutes County. Hantavirus is fatal in about 35 percent of cases, with no known treatment and no known prevention, aside from avoiding potential exposure.
“A lot of times it will happen after an area has been closed up for a while, a summer home or a barn, something like that,” Heather Kaisner, a Deschutes County Health Department spokesperson told the Bend Bulletin. “They go in and they do some spring cleaning, and there are mice droppings everywhere.”
Kaisner said it’s vital to take precaution when cleaning rodent droppings, and to properly rodent-proof homes.