Hantavirus In Yosemite National Park Results In Two Deaths

The National Park Service is scrambling to deal with an outbreak of the deadly hantavirus in Yosemite National Park after two people who recently visited the region contracted the disease and died. So far there have been three confirmed cases of the virus and a fourth suspected case. Park officials fear that potentially hundreds of visitors may have been exposed, however, prompting them to release a statement on NPS.gov earlier this week.

That statement warned visitors who may have stayed in Yosemite’s Curry Village campsite to take extra caution in dealing with the symptoms, which can be easily mistaken for the flu. Early warning signs include a fever and muscle aches throughout the body, but the Park Service memo says that those symptoms can quickly escalate into a more life-threatening illness. Anyone who has visited Curry Village between mid-June and the end of August is advised to seek immediate medial assistance if they exhibit any of the symptoms.

The hantavirus is typically carried by rodents, such as mice, rats or squirrels who initially contract the disease from fleas. It can be passed on to humans through bites, although it more commonly spreads when people are exposed to locations in which the rodents have left urine and droppings. Particles of those waste products can sometimes be breathed in, resulting in possible exposure. The virus can appear anywhere from one to six weeks later.

In response to this outbreak, park officials have implemented rolling closures of the cabins at Curry Village so that they could each be given a thorough cleaning. They’ve also started trapping more deer mice, a common rodent in the area, to check for elevated levels of the hantavirus in the species.

Anyone who has questions or concerns over the virus are encouraged to call 209-372-0822 for more information. The number is staffed 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

[Photo Credit: Ben Margot/Associated Press]