Heather Hartstein cries during the service for her husband David,...

Heather Hartstein cries during the service for her husband David, who died of the Hantavirus last week. A memorial service took place for David Hartstein at Sole Hotel in Montauk. (June 23, 2011) Credit: Randee Daddona

A fatal case of hantavirus in Montauk has been confirmed by laboratory tests, making it the fourth in the state since officials began keeping records.

State and local health officials announced the findings yesterday after consulting with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Earlier this week, the CDC launched an investigation into the death of Montauk chiropractor David Hartstein, 35.

Hartstein, who died a week ago, became severely ill one month after cleaning the basement of his home, where he may have come in contact with rodent droppings.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner James Tamarken called the rodent-borne illness "rare and unique." The last hantavirus case on Long Island was reported in 1995.

"The average person should just be aware of this and take the proper precautions when cleaning out areas like basements and barns," he said.

Three of the four New York hantavirus cases occurred on the East End of Long Island, all of them fatal. The fourth person, who recovered, was exposed to the virus in a hunting lodge upstate in Sullivan County, officials said.

Since tracking began in the early 1990s, the CDC has reported 568 cases in the United States. To date, CDC officials have confirmed six cases nationwide in 2011.

Rodents, which host the virus, shed it in their urine, droppings and saliva, according to the agency. The virus is mainly spread to people who breathe in air contaminated with it, officials said.

Hantavirus is more prevalent in rural areas because there are more places for rodents to live. In New York, the virus is carried by the white-footed mouse.

Tamarken said the health department is educating residents on protecting themselves from hantavirus exposure through media, brochures and a telephone hotline (631-853-3055). The virus is not spread through person-to-person contact.

Hartstein's wife, Heather, said this week that CDC officials told her they will inspect her home to help determine the strain that killed her husband.

Two weeks ago, David Hartstein began having minor pains, his wife said. The following week, he had a fever, and pain in his muscles and hands.

He spent most of the day before he died in bed. After complaining of nausea, he was taken to Southampton Hospital where he died hours later.

Heather Hartstein, 36, a special-education teacher, said she and her husband had lived in Montauk for nine years. The couple had three children, ages 5, 3, and 1.

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