Yosemite National Park officials are warning people who have visited the park since June to seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms associated with hantavirus after a second person died of the rodent-borne disease.
The symptoms, which appear one to six weeks after exposure, include fever, headache and muscle ache. They can progress quickly to severe difficulty in breathing and possible death, according to officials.
“An outreach effort is currently underway by the park concessionaire to contact visitors who stayed in ‘Signature Tent Cabins’ at Curry Village from mid-June through the end of August,” the Park Service said. “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.”
Three confirmed cases and one suspected cases have come into light for Hantavirus, the disease caused by a virus that people contract after coming into contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents, primarily deer mice.
One thing that is common between all of them is that all the four people have stayed in Curry Village, a collection of tents at the eastern side of Yosemite National Park. All four people have visited Yosemite National Park and have stayed in the village during their trip.
Park spokesman Scott Gediman expressed his grief over the death of another person due to the virus. A lot of efforts are being made to ensure that details of the virus could be known and have been taking the matter quite seriously.
The death prompted federal officials to step up efforts to locate and warn recent visitors.
“I know they are actively trying to notify people,” said Capt. Charles Higgins, director of the Office of Public Health for the National Park System.
Federal epidemiologists learned over the weekend of the fatality.
In order to make sure that the virus cases does not exit any more, park staff has been catching mice to test them for the virus.
Federal health officials say symptoms may develop up to six weeks after exposure to urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. Of the 587 documented U.S. cases since the virus was identified in 1993, a little more than one-third proved fatal.
Thousands of people visit the park every month, so it would be impossible to track everyone who had set foot in Curry Village, officials said.
Curry Village is the most popular and economical lodging area in the park, a picturesque assemblage of rustic cabins at the base of the 3,000-foot promontory Glacier Point. Of the 408 tent cabins in the village, 91 are of the “signature” variety where the four cases had stayed, which feature more amenities than the others.
It was not clear how many people stayed in the cabins in the period in which park officials are warning visitors.
Park spokesman Scott Gediman said the Delaware North Company, which runs the park’s lodging facilities, is working to shore up cabins to protect park visitors.
“There are rodents and some are infected and that’s what happens,” Gediman said. “This is a wilderness setting. It has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the cabins.”
This year’s deaths mark the first such deaths of park visitors, although two others were stricken in a more remote area in 2000 and 2010, officials said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the illness is deadly in 38 percent of patients.
Yosemite has set up a non-emergency phone line at (209) 372-0822 for questions regarding the disease, which will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
abdominal problems (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain)
shortness of breath (lungs fill with fluid)
The park service news release said that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Yosemite National Park Public Health Service officers conduct periodic rodent surveys to monitor deer mouse abundance and virus activity in mouse populations.
Yosemite National Park has conducted additional rodent trapping and is increasing rodent-proofing and trapping measures in tent cabins and buildings throughout the park. Structures throughout the park continue to be cleaned by following recommended practices and are inspected regularly. Yosemite also conducts routine rodent proofing of buildings and facilities throughout the park.
Contributor D. Chandler