Health

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Infected Hamster Blamed for Three Organ Transplant Deaths

April 18, 2008 09:41 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
PetSmart sued after three people die from organ transplants; donor was infected with a rare virus found in rodents.

30-Second Summary

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The organ donor had purchased a pet hamster that was infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) from a PetSmart store in Rhode Island.

Now Nancy Magee, whose husband died after receiving a liver transplant from the donor, is suing PetSmart for negligence. Magee claims the store should warn prospective hamster owners that the animals can carry the virus, and that it may be fatal to people with compromised immune systems.

House mice are the most common carriers of LCMV, and can spread the virus through body waste, saliva or nesting materials. Hamsters are less common carriers but they can get the virus from a pet store, at a breeder or in a home environment.

Though LCMV-related death is rare, it has happened to other organ recipients in recent years. In 2005, health officials urged doctors to carefully monitor organ transplant patients because at least six deaths had been connected to LCMV in the previous two years. Australia reported three more deaths from LCMV-tainted transplants in 2007.

Today nearly 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. Slightly more than 2,000 have received a transplant so far in 2008, according to OrganDonor.gov.

Headline Link: PetSmart hamster blamed in transplant deaths

Background: Additional LCMV deaths

Reference: Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM)

Related: Organ donation

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