Hundreds of Yosemite Visitors Get Deadly Virus Warning

Two people who contracted the virus during a stay at Yosemite's Curry Village this summer have died.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Yosemite officials put out a health alert Tuesday to 1,700 people who stayed at Curry Village this summer, warning them they may have been exposed to the potentially deadly hantavirus. Elyce Kirchner reports. (Published Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012)

    Yosemite officials put out a health alert Tuesday to 1,700 people who stayed at Curry Village this summer, warning them they may have been exposed to the potentially deadly hantavirus.

    The warning, which came in the form of an email, comes one day after a second hantavirus death was confirmed by federal health officials.

    [Click here for complete information about hantavirus from the Centers for Disease Control.]

    Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher advised everyone to watch for symptoms like fever, aches, dizziness and chills. “Because people often don’t get sick from hantavirus until one to six weeks after exposure, we are encouraging anyone who stayed in Curry Village since June to be aware of the symptoms of hantavirus and seek medical attention at the first sign of illness," Neubacher said in a statement.

    All of the at-risk visitors stayed in the "Signature Tent Cabins'' in Yosemite National Park's popular Curry Village.

    Hantavirus is a rodent-borne disease that is carried in the urine, saliva and feces of infected deer mice. There are four confirmed hantavirus cases connected to Yosemite this summer. Two of the victims died, and two others are expected to survive. One of the victims who died was from Alameda County.

    "There are rodents and some are infected and that's what happens,'' park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Associated Press. "This is a wilderness setting. It has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the cabins.''

    Yosemite National Park has set up a general, non-emergency phone line for all questions and concerns related to hantavirus in Yosemite National Park. The phone number is (209) 372-0822 and it will be staffed from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.

    "If you see evidence of rodents, don't sweep it up," Yosemite National Park ranger Jana McCabe advised."The key is, you don't want to stir up the dust," she said.

    When people are in wilderness areas or places that harbor mice, there are some things that can be done to prevent HPS:

    • Avoid areas, especially indoors, where wild rodents are likely to have been present.
    • Keep food in tightly sealed containers and store away from rodents.
    • Keep rodents out of buildings by removing stacked wood,rubbish piles, and discarded junk from around homes and sealing any holes where rodents could enter.
    • When cleaning a  sleeping or living area, open windows to air out the areas for at least two hours before entering. Take care not to stir up dust. Wear plastic gloves and spray areas contaminated with rodent droppings and urine with a 10% bleach solution or other household disinfectants and wait at least 15 minutes before       cleaning the area. Place the waste in double plastic bags, each tightly sealed, and discard in the trash. Wash hands thoroughly afterward.
    • Do not touch or handle live rodents and wear gloves when handling dead rodents. Spray dead rodents with a disinfectant and dispose of in the same way as droppings. Wash hands thoroughly after handling dead rodents.
    • If there are large numbers of rodents in a home or other buildings, contact a pest control service to remove them.

    The virus was first identified in 1993. Since then, only about 60  cases have been reported in California, health officials said.

    Nationwide, 587 cases have been reported, with a third of those  resulting in death.

    For additional information on preventing HPS, visit the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hantavirus web page.