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HELENA - A 29-year-old man has died from hantavirus, the second death from the disease in less than two weeks in Montana, health officials said Tuesday.

Laurel Riek, a spokeswoman for the city-county health department in Helena, said officials were still investigating how the man contracted the disease.

It is the third reported hantavirus case in the state in the past two weeks and the first ever in Lewis and Clark County, health officials said.

State officials said the quick succession of three cases was unusual for Montana, noting that there were no reported cases of the disease in the state in 2002.

A 26-year-old Cascade County woman died of hantavirus on May 8 and a Dillon man in his 60s tested positive for the virus Friday. The man was released from a Dillon hospital and was expected to recover fully.

Saturday's death is the 20th case of the disease in Montana and the fifth death since it first appeared in the state in 1993.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a severe respiratory infection spread by rodent urine, feces or saliva. People typically become sick about two weeks after breathing virus particles stirred up in a rodent-infested space.

The flu-like symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, chills, muscle and body aches, cough, nausea, headache, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Health officials said Montanans should eliminate rodents from their homes and report to a doctor if they experience any symptoms, especially shortness of breath, after coming in contact with rodents.

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