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Belmont worker dies of suspected rare rodent-borne virus

NEW YORK — New York state health officials believe a backstretch worker at Belmont Park died from a rare virus found in rodent droppings.

The state health department said Friday that the racetrack employee was found unconscious June 1 outside the backstretch housing unit where the employee lived. The employee died June 6 at a hospital. The employee’s name was not released.

A preliminary investigation suggests the employee died from hantavirus.

Most hantavirus cases are transmitted when people breathe in rodent droppings in confined areas.

The New York Racing Association says it will overhaul its pest control practices in light of the suspected hantavirus death.

Hantavirus is rare and cannot be spread from one person to another. Only 728 cases were reported in the United States between 1993 and 2017.