At least 4 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), one of them fatal, have been associated with “Signature Tent Cabins” at
Curry Village (Camp Curry) in Yosemite National Park. The park is contacting visitors who stayed in these tents from mid-June through the end of August. Early medical attention is critical for individuals who contract hantavirus.
The incubation period for hantavirus is from one to 6 weeks, meaning some people may be infected with this virus but not yet have symptoms. The disease begins with fever and aches, but can progress rapidly to life-threatening illness. California public health officials believe the four recent visitors might have been exposed while vacationing at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park.
The National Park Service Office of Public Health has issued a call for cases to state and local health departments nationwide, and is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to heighten public health awareness and detection. Our law firm supports these efforts and encourage readers to forward this information to anyone they know who has been to Yosemite this summer.
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.
Since hantavirus pulmanary syndrome was first identified in 1993, there have been approximately 60 cases in California and 587 cases nationally. About one third of hantavirus cases reported to the CDC have been fatal. There are most likely many more unreported cases.
Hantavirus is caused by a virus that individuals get through contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents, primarily deer mice. Not all deer mice carry hantavirus, but deer mice with hantavirus have been found throughout the United States. Most infections are caused by breathing small particles of mouse urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air. If the virus is contracted, the symptoms appear one to six weeks after exposure with fever, headache, and muscle ache, and progresses rapidly to severe difficulty in breathing and, in some cases, death.Early medical attention can greatly increase the chance of survival, so it is important to seek medical attention immediately if an individual experiences any of these symptoms and may have been exposed to rodents.
When people are in wilderness areas or places that harbor mice, individuals can take the following steps to prevent hantavirus:
- Avoid areas, especially indoors, where wild rodents are likely to have been present.
- Keep food in tightly sealed containers and store away from rodents.
- Keep rodents out of buildings by removing stacked wood, rubbish piles, and discarded junk from around homes and sealing any holes where rodents could enter.
- When cleaning asleeping or living area, open windows to air out the areas for at least two hours before entering. Take care not to stir up dust. Wear plastic gloves and spray areas contaminated with rodent droppings and urine with a 10% bleach solution or other household disinfectants and wait at least 15 minutes before cleaning the area. Place the waste in double plastic bags, each tightly sealed, and discard in the trash. Wash hands thoroughly afterward.
- Do not touch or handle live rodents and wear gloves when handling dead rodents. Spray dead rodents with a disinfectant and dispose of in the same way as droppings. Wash hands thoroughly after handling dead rodents.
- If there are large numbers of rodents in a home or other buildings, contact a pest control service to remove them.