mi-deer-mouse-ap

A female deer mouse has a monitor attached to her left ear at the Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb, N.Y., Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007. The Hantavirus disease is spread through the animal's urine and droppings. (The Associated Press)

Health officials from B.C. and Yukon are in Atlin, B.C., today looking for the source of a deadly case of Hantavirus.

The rare disease is normally spread through the urine and feces from deer mice.

Officials confirmed the virus was responsible for the death of Gerhard Holmok, 45, earlier this month. Holmok died suddenly Jan. 9 at the Whitehorse hospital.

Doctor Ronald Chapman, the Chief Medical Health officer for northern B.C., said the Atlin death is the most northerly case of Hantavirus ever diagnosed in the province.

"Up until 1995, the farthest north the virus occurred in B.C. is up to Williams Lake, so this is certainly the farthest north."

Health officials advise people to wear gloves and masks when working around or cleaning out areas where there may be mice.

The hantavirus infection, also known as hanta virus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), is a very rare viral disease which can be fatal.

Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cough, which progresses to respiratory illness, the province said in a release.

The symptoms develop within one to six weeks after exposure to deer mouse droppings.

Chapman said investigators in Atlin hope to find the source of the virus by trapping the diseased rodents.

He said it's usually just one or two infected mice that are responsible.

Chapman said there is no cause for public concern at this point.