Viral Deaths due to hamsters?
May 25, 2005 - 11:12:38 PM

Today, the RI Department of Health announced the preliminary results of an investigation into theunfortunate deaths of three recent recipients of organ transplants (2-MA/1-RI). The following investigation of the cause of death, by the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the CDC, the New England Organ Bank and the transplant centers, pointed to a viral infection (known as LCMV).

In cooperation with the New England Organ Bank and the CDC, the infection was traced back to a RI donor who died from unrelated causes. The source of the infection appears to involve exposure to the urine or feces of common house mice or rodent pets (such as hamsters). At least one pet at the donor’s residence tested positive for LCMV.

“We continue to investigate the source of infection and events leading to this sad outcome,” said David R. Gifford, MD, MPH, Director of Health. “Also, because LCMV infection has been associated with miscarriage and neurological illness in the newborn, we are taking the precaution of advising pregnant women in the first and second trimester of pregnancy to avoid exposure to rodent urine or feces—including household pets such as hamsters.”

This chain of events represents only the second time transmission of LCMV through organ transplant has ever been seen.

The RI Department of Health is working collaboratively with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and CDC to evaluate the risk to the public from LCMV in pet hamsters. HEALTH is also disseminating information to the general public and the medical community on how to prevent exposure to LCMV and other rodent associated infections.

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