| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Aug 28 Yosemite National Park is
warning 1,700 people that they may have been exposed to a
potentially deadly rodent-borne lung disease while staying in
the famous California park, and said that two visitors had died
from the illness known as hantavirus.
The tourists who died had stayed in Curry Village, a popular
camping area tucked below the park's sheer granite walls, a
Yosemite spokesman said on Tuesday. A third visitor was sickened
by the virus but recovering.
Investigators were looking into whether a fourth visitor was
suffering from the illness, which is carried by wild rodents.
All four stayed in the area's tent cabins on overlapping days in
mid-June, spokesman Scott Gediman said.
"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," the park's
superintendent, Don Neubacher, said in a statement.
Symptoms, which include fever, headache and muscle ache,
appear one to six weeks after exposure. The virus kills slightly
more than one-third of those infected.
Nearly 4 million people visit Yosemite each year, and
roughly 70 percent of visitors congregate in the Yosemite
Valley, where Curry Village is located.
The cabins have been cleaned and remain open, and officials
said they do not consider there is any immediate health risk.
A 37-year-old Northern California man died of the virus at
the end of July, and a man from Pennsylvania died of hantavirus
two weeks ago, Gediman said.
The victims, who have not been publicly identified, did not
know each other, he said.
After determining that those stricken all stayed in the tent
cabins during the same week, park officials began reaching out
to 1,700 other people who stayed in the area, and told public
health officials across the nation to be on the lookout for
signs of the virus.
California has reported 60 cases of hantavirus
cardiopulmonary syndrome since it was first recognized in 1993.
Nationwide, 587 people were sickened with hantavirus between
1993 and 2011, according to government data.
Public health officials believe that only deer mice carry it
in California. As many as 20 percent of Yosemite's deer mice
carry hantavirus, Gediman estimated.
"This doesn't mean we're going to attempt to eradicate the
mice population," he said. "The deer mice are an important part
of the ecosystem."
Most hantavirus infections result from breathing air
contaminated with rodent urine or droppings, usually in small,
confined spaces with poor air circulation. People can also be
infected by eating contaminated food, touching contaminated
surfaces or being bitten by infected rodents.
Blood tests can diagnose the virus. There is no treatment,
but supportive care can improve survival chances.
(Editing by Mary Slosson and Xavier Briand)