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Yosemite officials warn more visitors about hantavirus

August 31, 2012 |  3:33 pm

Glenn Dean, a national parks occupational safety and health specialist, inspects tent cabins Tuesday at Curry Village at Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite officials have sent about 200 more notifications to visitors who may have been exposed to hantavirus, as the confirmed cases traced to the park rose to six.

Officials have now contacted 3,100 people by letter or email, up from 2,900 earlier this week, said park spokesman Scott Gediman. Of the six hantavirus cases that have been linked to the park, two have been fatal. The remaining cases involve California residents who are recovering, said Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb.

Officials have shut down the 91 "signature tent cabins" in Curry Village, the origin of four of the six cases. The origin of the two other cases remains under investigation.

Gaps that allowed access to deer mice, whose droppings carry the virus, have been plugged in the 91 cabins, but Gediman said the park would wait for more information before deciding what to do next. If problems continue, he said, the cabins could be moved or closed.

Officials say all six hantavirus infections occurred between June 10 and Aug. 24.

About one-third of the 587 hantavirus cases confirmed in the U.S. between 1993 and 2011 have been fatal.

Cobb said the park's emergency phone line, opened Tuesday to respond to questions, has received 1,700 calls.

Hantavirus spreads via mice droppings, saliva or urine, often through dirt and dust. Symptoms take one to six weeks to show in humans. Initially flu-like, the ailment can turn deadly as lungs begin to fill with fluid.

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-- Kate Mather, in Yosemite

Photo: Glenn Dean, a national parks occupational safety and health specialist, inspects tent cabins Tuesday at Curry Village at Yosemite National Park. Credit: Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle
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