EpidemicsWorld-wide alert for Yosemite hantavirus risk

Published 6 September 2012

U.S. health officials have alerted thirty-none countries that their citizens, who, as tourists,  have stayed in Yosemite National Park tent cabins this summer, may have been exposed to a deadly mouse-borne hantavirus

U.S. health officials have alerted thirty-none countries that their citizens, who, as tourists,  have stayed in Yosemite National Park tent cabins this summer, may have been exposed to a deadly mouse-borne hantavirus, a park service epidemiologist said on Wednesday.

Fox News reports that currently, estimations say there are 10,000 people who could be at risk of contracting hantavirus pulmonary syndrome from their stays in Yosemite between June and August. Of the 10,000, about 2,500 people live outside the United States, Dr. David Wong told Reuters.

According to Wong, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified the countries this weekend, most of which are in the European Union.

The lung disease has killed two men so far and landed four others in hospitals, all U.S. citizens, which prompted the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue the alert. Of the four still alive, three have recovered and one remains hospitalized, according to HHS.

Most of the victims identified so far are believed to have been infected while staying in one of the ninety-one “signature” tent-style cabins in the park’s Curry Village.

Last week park officials shut down the tent cabins after locating deer mice, which carry the disease and can burrow through the holes and infest the double walls of the cabins.

There is no cure for the disease, but early detection significantly increases the chances for survival, something Wong wants people to take seriously. “I want people to know about this so they take it seriously,” Wong told Reuters. “We’re doing our due diligence to share the information.”

Early symptoms include headache, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and coughing. The virus incubates for up to six weeks after exposure and may lead to severe breathing difficulties and death.

The disease was originally detected in 1993. It kills about 36 percent of those infected and has not been known to be transmitted from human to humans.

The virus is carried in particles inhaled from rodent feces and urine. People are also infected by eating food that has been contaminated by the particles, touching contaminated surfaces, and being bitten by rodents who are infected.

 

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