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Belmont Park worker likely died of sepsis, not hantavirus, state says

A backstretch worker at Belmont Park likely died

A backstretch worker at Belmont Park likely died June 6 from bacterial sepsis, not hantavirus, officials said. Credit: Jeff Bachner

A worker at the Belmont Park racetrack likely died from bacterial sepsis and not hantavirus as was previously suspected, the New York State Health Department said in a news release Saturday.

Samples taken from the backstretch worker, who died on June 6, had tested positive for the rare disease at a commercial laboratory in California, but further testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were negative, according to the news release.

“Based on CDC findings and the Department of Health’s ongoing investigation, the probable cause of death is bacterial sepsis,” the news release said.

Bacterial sepsis is a condition in which the infectious agent, in this case the common bacteria known as Klebsiella, has spread throughout the body. It can become life-threatening if the immune system is overwhelmed, the release said.

The worker, whose name has not been released, was hospitalized on June 1 after being found unconscious at a housing unit at Belmont. The worker died five days later.

Hantavirus is spread by rodents.

The employee’s death prompted an investigation into the living conditions of New York Racing Association employees in the residential section of Belmont Park. On Saturday, the state Health Department said NYRA would remediate the housing under the department’s oversight.

“NYRA has relocated employees who were living in substandard housing and agreed to immediately overhaul its pest control management practices,” the news release said.

That overhaul includes better building maintenance geared toward keeping rodents out, better waste management and monitoring and improved rodent control, the release said.

“NYRA is committed to modernizing backstretch facilities at Belmont Park to support the health and well-being of the backstretch community,” NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna said in a statement Saturday. “NYRA will continue to address pest control measures throughout Belmont Park and will implement all of New York State’s recommendations.”