Thousands More Warned about Deadly Virus at U.S. National Park pandemic

Posted on September 15, 2012

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01:55 15/09/2012
WASHINGTON, September 15 (Jaclyn O’Laughlin for RIA Novosti)
Yosemite National Park in Northern California is warning another 230,000 recent overnight visitors about the deadly hantavirus, after a ninth person was confirmed to have contracted the disease, which has killed three people.

The ninth victim, who stayed overnight in Yosemite in July, has already recovered according to National Park Service spokesman John Quinley.

More than 30,000 visitors who stayed in Yosemite had already been notified that they may have been exposed.

Eight of the nine people that contracted the disease since June were confirmed to have stayed in Yosemite’s Signature Tent Cabins located in Curry Village and another person stayed at the park’s High Sierra Camps, Quinley said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the hantavirus is primarily found in rural areas and passed along by rodents through their urine, feces and saliva. Humans contract the virus by breathing air that is contaminated with it.

Symptoms of the disease may develop between one and five weeks and early signs of it include fatigue, fever and muscle aches and prolonged exposure to the virus can lead to coughing and shortness of breath.

The NPS stated on its website that the virus was first identified in 1993 and 602 cases have been reported in the U.S., and the virus has also been found in Canada, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Panama, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

The World Health Organization and the United States Department of Health and Human Services have also issued alerts about the illness on their websites.

Besides sending out alerts, Yosemite park staff members have also taken steps to contain the spread of the virus by trapping and killing mice, Quinley said.

“Our park maintenance staff has been working to inspect and improve the rodent proofing of buildings,” he said. “Concessionaires and the park service have been trapping mice throughout the park in areas of high public use in an effort to reduce the population and those efforts are continuing.”

The California Department of Health is currently conducting research of the mice population in Yosemite and intends to compile a report of its findings regarding the total population and if the rodents are infected, Quinley added.

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