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Montgomery Co. woman may have rodent-borne hantavirus

Friday, September 07, 2012

A rodent borne disease responsible for three deaths in California could be behind the quarantine of a home in Montgomery County.

The home on Slash Pine Place is now off limits. While the county's medical director won't say this first positive test is alarming, he does say it's unusual and they're doing all they can to contain it.

The house was quarantined almost immediately after the Montgomery County Health Department was notified. A sheriff's deputy was posted outside to ensure no one else goes in, and neighbors were told be on alert.

"If there were rodents in this home that potentially had hantavirus, that means there are others in the community that are likely carrying the disease," said Dr. Mark Escott with the Montgomery County Health Department.

Hantavirus is not contagious and is contracted by breathing in dried urine and feces from infected rodents. We've learned the woman who tested positive is the daughter of the homeowner.

She and 29 other people were recently inside the home shooting an episode of the Discovery Channel's "Hoarding: Buried Alive."

Disrupting the mounds of old dusty materials inside could easily free the airborne virus.

Escott says right now the priority is keeping people out.

"The sole exposure risk is about being exposed to what's in the house, so if we can prevent folks from going into the house we can prevent further exposure to the disease, if in fact it's confirmed," Escott said.

A second test at the state level will determine whether the woman does in fact have hantavirus. She has been released from the hospital and is being treated with medication. The rest of the crew has been notified to look for symptoms, which resemble pneumonia or the flu.

Neighbor Jim Poilto says they did wear face masks during production but...

"With everything I've read online, that house was made to order for that kind of thing," Polito said.

Dr. Escott says others should just be on the look out for rodents

"The best way to prevent spread of the disease is to control the rodents in the home. If rodents are found in the home, then they need to make sure that they use folks who are licensed to clean homes," Escott said.

What makes this a little more complicated is that thousands of books from this home were donated to the Friends of the Houston Public Library. The folks there tell us they've been notified and they've accounted for all of those books are now secured.

Meanwhile, the results of the state test are expected to come out Monday.

We worked on this story with our Houston Community Newspaper partners. You can read more in The Courier of Montgomery County.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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