Rhode Island Department of Health announced the preliminary results of an investigation into the unfortunate deaths of
three recent recipients of organ transplants (2-MA/1-RI). The following investigation of the cause of death, by the Rhode
Island Department of Health, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the CDC, the New England Organ Bank and the
transplant centers, pointed to a viral infection (known as LCMV). In cooperation with the New England Organ Bank and the CDC,
the infection was traced back to a RI donor who died from unrelated causes. The source of the infection appears to involve
exposure to the urine or feces of common house mice or rodent pets (such as hamsters). At least one pet at the donor’s
residence tested positive for LCMV.
“We continue to investigate the source of infection and events leading to this sad outcome,” said David R. Gifford, MD, MPH,
Director of Health. “Also, because LCMV infection has been associated with miscarriage and neurological illness in the
newborn, we are taking the precaution of advising pregnant women in the first and second trimester of pregnancy to avoid
exposure to rodent urine or feces-including household pets such as hamsters.”
This chain of events represents only the second time transmission of LCMV through organ transplant has ever been seen. The RI
Department of Health is working collaboratively with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and CDC to evaluate the
risk to the public from LCMV in pet hamsters. HEALTH is also disseminating information to the general public and the medical
community on how to prevent exposure to LCMV and other rodent associated infections.
LCMV infection can be prevented by avoiding or minimizing direct physical contact with wild rodents or exposure to rodent
urine or feces. Pregnant women should avoid contact with hamsters or other rodents. For more information about LCMV go to: health.ri or to cdc. For health-related calls contact the Family Health Information Line at 1-800-942-7434
during regular business hours. For calls about animal-related questions contact DEM Division of Agriculture 222-2781 during
regular business hours or go to: www.dem.ri/topics/agriculture/cdchealthypets.
Rhode Island Health Dept