A second person has died after contracting hantavirus in Yosemite National Park and up to 1,700 people were exposed to it in Curry Village, the park announced. As many as four people are likely to have become infected by hanta (three confirmed, the fourth is “probable”), two of whom have died. The fatalities occurred in June, but they just came to the attention of park officials recently.
“The National Park Service Office of Public Health learned over the weekend of a confirmed third case, which resulted in a fatality, and probable fourth case, of hantavirus in individuals who visited Yosemite National Park in June of this year,” the park reported. “An outreach effort is currently underway by the park concessioner to contact visitors who stayed in “Signature Tent Cabins” at Curry Village from mid-June through the end of August. These individuals are being informed of the recent cases and are being advised to seek immediate medical attention if they exhibit any symptoms of hantavirus.”
All of the exposure came in the tent cabins, but park spokesman Scott Gediman, said, “This is a wilderness setting. It has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the cabins.”
Hantavirus is carried by rodents, primarily deer mice, and has infected nearly 600 people since it was discovered in 1993, killing about one-third of them. Its full name is hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and, after a one to six weeks of incubation, it causes fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. It can also cause headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The primary form of transmission is when people stir up droppings, say when cleaning up a cabin, and inhale the virus. (For more, see the Centers for Disease Control hantavirus information page.)
Yosemite warned guests who’d stayed in Curry Village via email.
“The health of our visitors is our paramount concern and we are making every effort to notify and inform our visitors of any potential illness,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent. “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”.
According to the park, take these steps 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.
Photo by Miguel Vieira