Published: Tuesday, July 18, 2017 @ 3:07 PM
By: Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
BRIDGEPORT, Calif. — A California tour guide is in critical condition after he contracted a rare and potentially deadly respiratory disease spread by deer mice.
Spencer Fry, 22, of Sacramento, remained on a ventilator in the intensive care unit Monday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Roseville, where he has been since his family rushed him to the emergency room earlier this month. It was there that Fry was diagnosed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a dangerous infection that comes from exposure to hantavirus-infected rodents, their urine or their droppings.
The California Department of Public Health explained that patients become infected by breathing in air contaminated with dried rodent waste. In California, only deer mice carry the sin nombre virus, the specific hantavirus that causes the syndrome.
About 36 percent of cases of HPS are fatal.
According to Fox 40 in Sacramento, Fry was working as a tour guide at Bodie State Historic Park, a gold-mining ghost town east of the Sierra Nevadas and about 75 miles from Lake Tahoe, and sleeping in a cabin there.
Fry’s family told Fox 40 that they visited him over the July 4 holiday, at which time he complained of a headache each day. They grew concerned when he woke up with a fever of 104 degrees.
Fry’s sister, Chantal Todoroff, wrote on a YouCaring page set up on his behalf that the family insisted her brother return to Sacramento with them. Two hours after returning home, they were in the emergency room.
“After a couple of hours in the ER, vomiting began and his lungs began to fill with fluid,” Todoroff wrote.
He was rushed to the ICU, where he was sedated and put on a ventilator because he could no longer breathe on his own.
“There is no cure or treatment for hantavirus, so the Kaiser staff is doing everything they can to keep his vitals stable and major organs functioning as they allow his body to fight the virus,” Todoroff wrote.
She updated the page Tuesday, stating that her brother is awake and communicating with family by using a whiteboard. He remained on the ventilator and doctors continued to drain fluid from his lungs.
“Through everything, Spencer is still maintaining his sense of humor and staying very positive,” Todoroff wrote.
Though the California Department of Parks and Recreation has not confirmed that Fry contracted hantavirus at Bodie, his family believes that is the case. His father, Curtis Fry, told Fox 40 that his son could hear mice running around inside the cabin where he slept.
The news station reported that another person died after contracting hantavirus at Bodie in 2011.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there was also an outbreak of hantavirus infections among overnight visitors to Yosemite National Park in the summer of 2012. Eight of the 10 cases saw the person experience hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and five ended up on ventilators.
Three of those infected at Yosemite died, the CDC said.
Early symptoms of the illness include fever, fatigue and muscle aches, the CDC said. A sufferer may also have headaches, like Fry did, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
The more dangerous later symptoms, which appear four to 10 days after the illness begins, include fluid in the lungs, shortness of breath and coughing. According to the CDC, one survivor described the feeling of the building fluid as “a tight band around (his) chest and a pillow over (his) face.”
Between 1993 and 2015, a total of 659 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome were recorded. Of those cases, 235 ended in death, the CDC said.