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Dine College, CDC Battle Hantavirus

Shiprock is about to be at the forefront of an effort to educate people about a deadly virus most often caught in rural areas of the Southwest.

Diné College in Shiprock is partnering with the Center for Disease and Control, based in Atlanta, Ga. The team will combat the spread of the hantavirus, a sometimes fatal virus that is most common in the Four Corners region.

“The Four Corners has always had a lot of cases,” said Dr. Pierre Rollin, chief of the CDC’s Viral Special Pathogens Branch.

More than half of all cases reported in the United States are in or near the Four Corners area. Since the nation’s first outbreak in 1993, 34 states have had confirmed reports of the virus, and New Mexico has had the most cases with 91. Colorado and Arizona are the closet followers with 79 and 66, respectively.

The virus is much more common in the west, where most states have had more than a dozen cases of the hantavirus reported. Most states in the east have had fewer than a dozen cases, if any.

The virus is spread by rodents carrying the virus. People usually get the virus after coming in contact with those rodents or their urine, droppings or nesting materials. Outbuildings such as barns and shacks are the most frequently contaminated settings.