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Hantavirus confirmed in recovered LI man

Michael T. Vaughan, 72, shows a picture of

Michael T. Vaughan, 72, shows a picture of himself in the Adirondacks', during a press conference at Stony Brook University Hospital on how he contracted the suspected hantavirus infection, a rare disease, while hiking. (Oct. 12, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

State and federal officials Tuesday said test results confirmed a Suffolk man did suffer from a hantavirus infection, likely caused by exposure to mice while camping in the Adirondacks.

It's the fifth confirmed occurrence of the rare, and potentially deadly, rodent-borne lung infection in New York State. One resulted in the death of a Montauk chiropractor last year.

The New York State Department of Health released the results after receiving them from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta.

The infected man, Michael Vaughan, 72, of Stony Brook, was hospitalized in late September and had largely recovered after four days in intensive care.

Vaughan, a hiking enthusiast who works as a research associate professor at Stony Brook University, said Tuesday that he has fully recovered and has already returned to climbing Adirondack Mountain peaks.

In response to the Oct. 17 hantavirus confirmation, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said it "will check and remove any food or other rodent attractants from within, under and around lean-tos in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness in the Adirondacks."

In addition, state Health Department inspectors "did come to my house today looking for evidence of rodent access to my living quarters and found none," Vaughan said in an email.

Rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. Humans are mainly infected when they breathe contaminated air.

The infection likely occurred in late August when Vaughan and his wife, Keelin Murphy, 62, went on a hiking trip upstate near Mount Marcy, camping in a lean-to, a primitive wooden shelter near an Adirondack trail, he said.

Vaughan, who said he slept with his hands outside his sleeping bag, believes a mouse foraging for food bit his left thumb -- though Stony Brook and CDC experts were skeptical about that type of transmission.By late September, Vaughan said, he had become ill. He suffered from nausea and headaches, and had difficulty breathing after climbing stairs.

Vaughan kept a previously scheduled appointment with his new primary-care doctor, who became concerned and ordered tests. On Sept. 28, the doctor called Vaughan and told him to get to the emergency room right away. Placed in intensive care with pneumonia-like symptoms, he said his treatment consisted mostly of rest, hydration and oxygen.


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