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"Hoarding" house cleaner may have deadly rat-transmitted virus

Multiple medical tests are being conducted upon a hospitalized employee who cleaned a rodent-infested home for the TLC show called "Hoarding: Buried Alive." The victim and 29 others who worked on the house could be plaintiffs in premises liability lawsuits against the homeowners.

Doctors suspect the woman picked up the potentially dangerous hantavirus on the job. The virus is passed to humans who breathe air contaminated by infected rat urine and excrement. The syndrome cannot be spread from human to human.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported hantavirus pulmonary syndrome can be fatal. The rat-related illness is also responsible for the deaths of three campsite visitors last summer who had visited Yosemite National Park.

Local health department officials say the location was heavily infested by several different animals including opossums, snakes and an unknown number of rats. The practice of hoarding -- accumulating an excessive amount of possessions but never disposing of them -- attracts rodents.

The home that the worker cleaned was quarantined. The residence is now under guard by law enforcement officials. The federal government may enter the investigation if state lab results come back positive for hantavirus.

Local officials are concerned that the infected rat population could endanger other families in the same neighborhood as the "Hoarding" house.

The negligence of a homeowner can injure or sicken a visitor. A premises liability lawsuit gives victims the opportunity to request and receive compensation for medical expenses and other damages they incurred after being hurt in a home.

Reports say 30 people, including the suspected hantavirus victim, worked to clean the "Hoarding" home in preparation for a television show.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Hantavirus From 'Hoarding: Buried Alive' Home: Woman May Have Contracted Virus While Cleaning Houston House," Sept. 10, 2012

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