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Yosemite cabins cleaned, inspected after second hantavirus death

August 28, 2012 |  1:25 pm

Yosemite officials are cleaning and inspecting cabins in the park's Curry Village, where four recent visitors were believed to have contracted hantavirus, a rare rodent-borne disease that has killed about one-third of those exposed nationwide since health experts first identified it in 1993.

Park officials announced Monday that a second visitor had died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. All four visitors affected had stayed in Curry Village in June, the National Park Service said in a statement.

Now, officials have reached out to anyone who stayed in the Village's "signature tent cabins" from mid-June through August, warning them about the cases, the Park Service said. Emails were sent to about 1,700 people Monday evening; letters were to be mailed to additional visitors who stayed in the area but did not have a recorded email address.

Dan Jensen, president of Delaware North Cos. — Yosemite's contracted concessionaire — described hantavirus pulmonary syndrome as a "rare but serious disease" in the email and urged those showing symptoms to "seek healthcare immediately."

Symptoms of the disease — which begin one to six weeks after exposure — are flu-like and include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, according to the Center for Disease Control and prevention. The disease can progress rapidly into breathing problems.

Of the 587 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome reported in the United States between 1993 and 2011, about one-third were fatal, according to CDC statistics.

"There is no cure for hantavirus, so early medical attention is critical," said Scott Gediman, a Yosemite spokesman.

Gediman said crews began trapping and testing the deer mice believed to be carrying the disease after the first two cases of hantavirus were reported and are continuing to do so. They are also "deep cleaning" and repairing the canvas-and-wood cabins in Curry Village to fix any holes where mice might be able to enter, Gediman said.

Two other exposures have been reported in the park's history, in 2000 and 2010, both in the Tuolumne Meadows, Gediman said. Neither of those cases was fatal.

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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