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Hantavirus in Yosemite: New batch of park visitors notified

September 14, 2012 |  9:18 am
Yosemite cabins
News of the ninth case of hantavirus originating in Yosemite National Park came as officials began another wave of public notification, emailing 230,000 people who reserved lodging at the park since early June.

The rodent-borne disease has killed three visitors since mid-June. The latest case sickened a California resident who stayed in a Curry Village "signature tent cabin" in early July, park spokesman Scott Gediman said. The person has since recovered, he added.

The latest case was a milder infection, with flulike symptoms that did not advance to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, the respiratory ailment that can prove fatal, according to park and health officials.

Officials have called the Yosemite outbreak unprecedented — more than one hantavirus infection from the same location in the same year is very rare. The disease is typically transmitted to humans when they inhale dust or dirt containing the droppings or urine of infected mice.

Officials have already sent emails and letters to about 3,100 people who reserved one of the 91 signature tent cabins, where all but one of the cases were believed to have originated.

Thousands of additional notifications went out last week after another case was traced to the High Sierra Loop, the link between Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows and other areas. But some recent visitors have complained about what they consider a dearth of information from the park.

Park officials have said they focused initial outreach efforts on those believed to be most at risk.

"We heard some concerns from visitors, and people read about it in the media, so we felt that we wanted to be proactive and transparent and get the word out to additional overnight visitors," Gediman said. "We want to get out all the information we can."


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Photo: Cabin tents at Yosemite National Park. Credit: Los Angeles Times