Yosemite cleaning up after man dies of rodent-borne disease
Yosemite National Park and state health department officials said that a man died of and a woman became ill with a rare rodent-borne disease apparently linked to time they spent at the park in June.
Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said the two adults, who have not been identified and were not traveling together, stayed at the park’s popular Curry Village lodging area on overlapping days in June. The area is known for its historic tent cabins and is popular with families.
Tests later confirmed that the man, identified only as a 37-year-old from the Bay Area, died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in late July, officials said. The virus can take up to six weeks to incubate.
The woman, said to be from the Inland Empire and in her 40s, is recovering.
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, Gediman said.
“Because of that, we feel the exposure may have been in Curry Village, although we can’t tell for sure,” he said.
Gediman said the man was the first person to die of hantavirus evidently contracted at Yosemite, although two others, in 2000 and 2010, were stricken by the disease in another part of the park, Tuolumne Meadows.
The recent cases bring the number of hantavirus cases in California this year to four, public health officials said.
Hantavirus is caused by breathing in particles of infected rodent urine or droppings. Symptoms include fever, headache and muscle ache, progressing to breathing difficulties and in about one-third of all cases, death.
Gediman said park officials and cleaning contractors have stepped up efforts to disinfect Yosemite’s cabins and other lodging, and are trapping and testing mice. An investigation by health officials found that the park's cleaning concessionaire used good practices.
The park spokesman noted that although such problems were rare, it is not possible to rid a natural area like Yosemite of all danger. "It’s a wilderness area and rodents live in the wilderness," he said.