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Tech Faculty Featured on Weather Channel

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Two faculty members of Montana Tech were recently featured in a story that aired nationally on the Weather Channel.

The two were selected for the story after years of researching a deadly virus spread through animals that live among our buildings.

For almost 20 years, Amy Kuenzi and Rick Douglass have been researching a deadly disease.

It's a disease that easily infects humans with the help of the common deer mouse.

"Hantavirus is a group of viruses," said Amy Kuenzi, professor of Biology. "There are a lot of different types of Hantavirus, but the type of virus we work with is called it "Sin Hombre", which is carried by deer mice."

"The virus is maintained in the deer mouse reservoir and they shed it in feces, urine, and saliva," said Rick Douglass, professor emeritus.

Deer mice, which carry the deadly virus, are common critters often found living in buildings.

The virus is usually ingested by breathing in infected dust particles.

For years the Montana Tech faculty has been researching the rodents, hoping to create an understanding of the virus ecology.

"The hypothesis is the more mice you have, the higher percentage of mice there is in shedding the virus," said Kuenzi.

The Sin Hombre Virus has symptoms similar to the flu that gradually get worse.

For their research with the mice and virus, the faculty members were awarded with a feature on the Weather Channel's "Spilled Over" show.

"It was clear," Kuenzi said. "There was no snow, and it was fairly warm. A lot of times when it's cold, we don't catch a lot of animals, but we did catch some animals. So they were able to see how we handle them in the field and what we were doing."

It has been almost 20 years, but the two say they will continue their research of the Sin Hombre Virus and hopefully leave with an understanding of how it works.

To watch the segments on the weather channel, visit the Weather Channel's web site.

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