Hantavirus Deaths Frighten Yosemite Visitors

Park officials have taken action, urge visitors to keep plans
Staff Writer

More than 10,000 visitors to Yosemite National Park may have been exposed to a potentially deadly mouse-borne illness known as Hantavirus. On August 30, The National Park Service announced six confirmed cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, contracted by visitors who stayed in the “signature” tented camps at Curry Village. So far two people have died and four more became ill due to the outbreak.

Delaware North Co., the company that runs Curry Village, contacted the nearly 3,000 people who reserved the cabins between June and August to warn guests about their potential exposure to the virus. Because each cabin can hold up to four people, park spokesman Scott Gediman said up to 7,000 more visitors could have been exposed, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Yosemite National Park is receiving more than 1,000 call a day, many from people worried they may be at risk for the disease.  Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is fatal in 38 percent of cases. Although the incubation time of the disease is not known for sure, symptoms are believed to develop between 1 to 5 weeks after exposure to the fresh urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents, according to the CDC. Early symptoms can include fatigue, fever and muscle aches and progress into shortness of breath and the lungs filling with fluid.

For anyone with plans to visit Yosemite, the question remains whether or not to go on your trip. Over Labor Day, some guests cancelled their lodging plans, while many people on the wait lists snatched up the open spots. Officials are encouraging people to keep plans, as they've closed the 91 cabins where the virus was identified and cite other areas of the park that are uncontaminated.

But, there's no excuse not to be cautious and stay safe. Recommondations include: keep food in tightly sealed containers; take care not to stir up dust; keep luggage off the floor; avoid contact with live rodents; and contact housekeeping if you find rodent droppings or urine in your room. 

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