Houston, Texas – Hantavirus has been in the news more often in recent weeks as campers have contracted the dangerous virus and fallen ill at Yosemite, but a story earlier this week indicated that a house belonging to a hoarder had caused a worker clearing up the mess to fall ill with the serious infection.
However, it turns out the hantavirus link was a false alarm. It was believed a woman cleaning out the hoarder’s home near Houston, Texas had contracted hantavirus — which is associated with mouse and rodent droppings — after she fell ill with symptoms consistent with the infection while working on the hoarding house in Texas.
But later hantavirus testing confirmed that the woman and two others were negative for hantavirus after the woman’s illness raised the alarm. The woman, who has not been named, became ill during a clean-out for the TLC show Hoarders: Buried Alive.
Initially, the woman is said to have tested positive for the virus after falling ill with symptoms of hantavirus, but Dr. Mark Escott, deputy local health authoritity for Montgomery County, says that the testing process is likely to produce false positives from time to time:
“The testing process is a bit unchartered territory and it’s constantly being revised based on what we find out from situations like this. There’s a reference range for the test, which below the range is negative and above the range is positive. We send that test, the confirmation to the state lab, or the reference lab, to determine if it’s a ‘true positive’ or a ‘false positive.’ In this situation, that reference lab as come back as a false positive.”
Although the illness was definitely not hantavirus, public health officials have still not worked out what made the woman sick.