Health Department: Montauk Man Died After Breathing In Fumes From Mice Droppings

Only 568 Cases Of Extremely Rare Hantavirus Found In U.S. Since 1993

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — State and local health officials have confirmed a Montauk man died last week of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).

Hantavirus is a lung infection caused by a microbe sometimes found in urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. Humans can become infected by inhaling the microscopic particles.

The state Department of Health, Suffolk County Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 35-year-old David Hartstein’s death appears to be an isolated case.

On Thursday Heather Hartstein held a memorial service for her beloved husband.

“He was kind-hearted. He was a gentle soul. He was a healer,” she told CBS 2’s John Slattery.

David Hartstein was married with three young children and a Montauk chiropractor. Health officials said he had been cleaning the basement of his home in Montauk and apparently breathed in the virus from mouse droppings.

“It’s spread by rodent feces, urine and saliva. Those materials, if they get aerosolized, become part of the air we breathe into the lungs, causing infection,” said Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken. “People should not be afraid because this is not a disease that is transmitted from human to human, or through dogs and cats. They should be careful when they clean areas that they think are rodent infested.”

The disease is fatal in 38 percent of all cases, but it’s so rare there have been only four in New York in the past 17 years. Health officials said the virus was first identified in the Southwest in 1993. Nationwide, there have been only 568 cases.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall: It’s The First Case On Long Island Since 1995

Symptoms of hantavirus include high fever, muscle aches, coughing and headache — which may appear between one and five weeks after exposure to the virus.

Health officials said the best way to prevent exposure to hantavirus is to avoid contact with rodent droppings or urine, prevent infestation in the home and set traps inside empty containers to prevent contact with possibly contaminated materials.

“Wear gloves and a mask and aerate where you are,” Heather Hartstein said.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Sophia Hall
  • Xena

    That’s scary. Years ago I had a bad infestation and in some spots there was so much mouse feces it looked like I spilled a container of chocolate sprinkles there. I don’t have any loose in the house any more but I do have 4 pet deer mice and I’ve been ok so far. I had them for years. This worries me enough that when these ones die I don’t think I’ll get any more.

  • FallenAnjel

    I work in a hardware store and I had an elderly gentleman come in looking for Bleach and a pump sprayer because he caught like 5 mice in the last YEAR. He wanted to spray his basement. I am so sick of the news scaring the public and not giving ALL THE FACTS. (Not necessarily CBS, as this article was pretty precise). I talked the guy out of it, the last thing I wanted to happen was to read in the news that a man died from breathing toxic bleach fumes! :( He did buy a bottle of Clorox Clean up, figured he can’t do much w/ that.
    —–This is just like the stupid story about the supposed lead in vinyl lunch boxes. We sold more lead test kids than I can count and a year later ANOTHER report came out that said the ONLY way a kid would get poisoned was to touch the lunch box and lick their hands over 100 TIMES A DAY !

    • found mice

      Yes, media coverage like this tend to make things seem more devastating than they are and people panic unnecessarily. It is very rare disease, not all species of rats and mice carry the virus. If it was something to panic about, we would see more people infected through the years. I discovered mice infestation in my apartment and remember HPS, I panicked. After trapping and releasing several mice, cleaning droppings, etc. I am still alive, 6 months later. Let’s not go and start killing everything that moves!

  • JP

    The snide comments aren’t necessary. The rodent feces should be doused in disinfectant, not the people.

    RIP, Dave.

  • Amanda

    The last paragraph says “people should be doused with disinfectant and allowed to dry before cleaning up mouse droppings”

    This doesn’t make sense.

    • Marcia

      I noticed this, too … where are the editors when you need them?

      • Agatha

        Made about as much sense as “People should be doused with gasoline and set afire to prevent further contamination.” Or maybe that makes more sense than dousing people with disinfectant and allowing them to dry.

        What’s missing is what people can expect if they somehow did get infected, since there’s apparently no treatment. 38% roll of the dice I suppose.

      • Jan

        On the job apparently, the errant suggestion’s been deleted now- Wouldn’t want to lead the more literal among us astray.

  • Subway Rider

    What about in the nyc subway. There are rats everywhere. And the trains moving the air around. Could it be in the subway air?

    • found mice

      Not all species carry the virus, This is what these articles and releases fail to mention If you search what rodent carries it, you will see that is not everywhere you look and in every animal you find. Stop panicking. 4 cases in 20 years is hardly an epidemic.

    • FallenAnjel

      You prob. had Bronchitis. Or TB. but u prob. would have died if it were TB and TB is contagious, so you’d have passed it on to your kid. When was the last time u had a TB test? (ps–TB= Tuberculosis)

  • Brian M. Sweig

    This is why Thoroughspect has been sealing homes to exclude rodents without the use of poison since 1998. Fast food pest control could actually escalate the amount of fecal as the rodents die in the walls from poisons. Common sense says seal the home and trap vs poison over and over again. Evey home can at least have the number of rodents lwered dramatically if not down to zero.

  • Greta

    There are lots of rodents near the shore. He might have had mice in the basement and not realized it. Does anyone know if squirrels carry it? I have a lot of squirrels near me and was wondering if I should avoid them.

    • sarah

      it is not carried by squirrels.

  • rugbyprop

    Strange; Plum Island is less than five miles from the mainland of LI and a young guy dies of an exotic disease like Hantavirus. Scary!

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