Worker Who Died Before Belmont Stakes May Have Had Hantavirus: DOH

What to Know

  • A backstretch worker at Belmont Park died in what New York State Department of Health officials said is a suspected case of hantavirus
  • The worker's death came in the days leading up to the Belmont Stakes thoroughbred race
  • Hantavirus is spread when a person ingests urine or droppings from a small rodent

 A Belmont Park worker died after possibly contracting hantavirus -- a rare disease that comes from ingesting rodent urine -- in the run-up to the Belmont Stakes, health officials said. 

According to the New York State Department of Health, the worker was found unconscious on June 1 outside a housing unit on the Belmont Park backstretch; she died on June 6, three days before the race. 

Health officials said the case is being investigated as a possible case of hantavirus exposure and samples have been sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control for testing. 

The New York Racing Association has relocated workers about of an abundance of caution and is overhauling its pest control practices, according to the Health Department. It is also extending medical clinic hours. 

There have only been five confirmed cases of hantavirus in New York since the state began tracking the disease in 1993. 

Hantavirus exposure usually occurs after breathing in the virus when rodent urine and droppings are stirred up into the air, according to health officials.

People also can become infected when they touch mouse or rat urine, droppings, or nesting materials that contain the virus, and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. The disease is not spread from person to person.

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