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Hantavirus warning sent to 1,700 recent Yosemite visitors

Yosemite cabins

Yosemite National Park officials have warned 1,700 people who visited the park between mid-June and late August that they are at risk of contracting hantavirus, the rodent-borne disease that has been tied to the deaths of two recent park visitors.

The park sent emails Monday evening to people who might have been in the area where the disease had been contracted. It advises them to seek medical attention if they feel flu-like symptoms associated with the virus.

Officials said the the victims stayed at the park's popular Curry Village in June, officials said.

"An outreach effort is currently underway by the park concessionaire to contact visitors who stayed in 'Signature Tent Cabins' at Curry Village from mid-June through the end of August," the Park Service said. "These individuals are being informed of the recent cases and are being advised to seek immediate medical attention if they exhibit any symptoms of hantavirus."

The second fatality was identified as a California resident who contracted the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome after visiting the park in June, the National Park Service said in a statement.

Officials say a total of four people appear to have contracted the disease.

The symptoms, which appear one to six weeks after exposure, include fever, headache and muscle ache. They can progress quickly to severe difficulty in breathing and lead to death, according to officials.

The disease is caused by a virus that people contract after coming into contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents, primarily deer mice.

After reports of the visitors’ illnesses, testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Public Health identified the virus in the droppings of deer mice around the Curry Village area, park officials said.

"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," the Park Service said. "Yosemite also conducts routine rodent proofing of buildings and facilities throughout the park."

Yosemite has set up a non-emergency phone line at (209) 372-0822 for questions regarding the disease, which will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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--Kate Mather

Photo: Tents at Curry Village in October 2011. Credit: Ben Margot /Associated Press.

 
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