Hantavirus Suspected in Mono County Death

A Bodie State Park seasonal worker went to Mammoth Hospital Thursday with what he thought was a bad case of influenza. He was flown out to Renown Hospital in Reno where he died. The name of the man has now been released. He was Richard Laird Johnson, known as Laird. There should be no confusion between this victim and Health Officer Dr. Richard Johnson.

Dr. Johnson said he is 99% sure the man died from Hantavirus. He said laboratory test results will come out some time this week. Dr. Johnson said that the Mono County Health Department was notified last Thursday of the death of a 61-year-old man who “has died from a probable Hantavirus cardio-pulmonary infection. The individual was a seasonal worker in Bodie who had been sick with a flu-like illness for about four days,”according to Johnson.

Dr. Johnson said the man presented to Mammoth Hospital Thursday morning and was quickly flown to Reno where he died shortly after arrival. “Our hearts go out to his family, friends and co-workers.” Johnson said that if confirmed, this would represent a third case of Hantavirus in the Eastern Sierra this summer and would be the first death. The other two cases survived.

“It’s important to note that anyone with a flu-like illness in the summer time which is not flu season should seriously consider the possibility of Hantavirus,” said Dr. Johnson. He advised anyone with a flu-like illness to seek care from a health care provider as soon as possible. Johnson also added the words of caution to avoid contact with droppings of deer mice and to “seal up, trap up and clean up urine and droppings around the home and property.”

Earlier this summer, a case of Hantavirus was confirmed in Mammoth and another in Bishop. Dr. Johnson said both patients have fully recovered. The Mammoth patient contracted Hantavirus from a closet closed up all winter at the home. The Bishop individual contracted the disease from a work place. If, in fact, lab tests confirm Hantavirus in the third case, an investigation will follow.

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