PUBLIC SEEKS ANSWERS ABOUT DEADLY HANTAVIRUS DISEASE 04/12/99 A packed audience attending a medical conference about hantavirus over the weekend wanted to find out who is at risk of contracting the rodent-borne disease and who will die from it. But they received little solace from a panel of experts who admitted there are still many unanswered questions about the mystery killer. Since there is no proven treatment, drug or vaccine that can save people from the virus, avoidance of disease carriers was the best advice they could offer. "Our treatment options are fairly limited," said Colorado state epidemiologist John Pape at a two-day medical conference, attended by representatives from Canada to the Navajo Nation, which ended Saturday. But early detection of the disease and swift cardiopulmonary support of the patient, also appears to reduce fatalities, experts said. Hantavirus is a respiratory disease carried by rodents, especially deer mice, and transmitted to humans through contact with infected urine, feces or saliva. Breathing contaminated dust or mist is the most common form of transmission. Since hantavirus became a recognized disease in the United States in 1993, there have been 16 cases in Colorado and 10 deaths. "We don't know why," said Dr. Richard Hoffman, chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Nationally, the disease has killed 90 of 211 people whose cases have been recognized in the United States. Though hantavirus is a worldwide problem, U.S. cases are concentrated in the rural West. The latest hantavirus case was confirmed Thursday in New Mexico. After a number of people asked the panel difficult questions about the disease Saturday, Dr. Chuck Salka, chief of infection control at Mercy Medical Center in Durango, looked into the crowd and said: "All those with answers, please come up." The Colorado health department did have some advice for conference participants. Since one of the riskiest activities is stirring up excrement-infested dust, sweeping up or vacuuming mouse droppings should be avoided, the department said. Rodent droppings should be wetted with disinfectant or strong detergent before they are removed. And it is also important to destroy mouse habitats, like woodpiles or junked cars. "The live mouse is the greatest risk," said Dr. C.J. Peters, chief of the special pathogens branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Early symptoms of hantavirus include fever and muscle aches, possibly accompanied by chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cough. Symptoms at first can seem like the flu, but quickly develop into serious respiratory problems.,1249,75003713,00.html? In the Navajo language there is no word for "guilty." Understanding the importance of family groups and tradition is key to understanding Navajo justice, a justice in which there is no need for jails, police or judges. People traditionally consulted chiefs, he said. They came, not because the chiefs were powerful, but because chiefs were wise and knew traditions. People who had a dispute came to the chief seeking wisdom for the group discussion. The group discussion would ultimately resolve the conflict. In the Navajo Nation today, there are 250 peacekeepers. They are selected by the people. They serve a population of 250,000 people living on a land base of 25,000 square miles.,1249,75003781,00.html? People from all over the world still come to enjoy the scenic beauty of the American West aboard the California Zephyr. Vandals defaced Stone Age cave paintings in Spain, spraying splotches of orange paint on ancient figures depicting people and animals. Officials said today the attack was the third since 1991 on the cave outside the town of Albi in the northeast Catalonia region.