Any of the 1,700 people who visited Yosemite National Park and stayed in some of its quaintest rustic tent cabins in June, July or August should take note — park officials are warning visitors from this summer that they maybe could’ve caught a rare rodent-borne disease called hantavirus. So far two visitors have died from the disease and two others have fallen ill.
The four people who came down with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome stayed in one of 91 “Signature Tent Cabins” at Curry Village around the same time in June. Humans can catch the virus if they come in contact with rodent feces, urine and saliva or by inhaling particles.
At first, park officials sanitized the cabins and told the public that the cause of death in the first case might have been caused by diseased mice. Now the Centers for Disease Control has determined that the second death was also likely linked to Yosemite, reports the Associated Press.
Contracting a deadly disease is something that can happen when you’re in the wilderness, said a Yosemite spokesman.
“We’re very concerned about visitors and employees,” park spokesman Scott Gediman said. “But we feel we are taking proactive steps in both cleaning the affected areas and in public education. But it’s absolutely impossible to eliminate all risk.”
Around four million people visit the park every year from around the world, so officials are trying to figure out if they need to warn other countries as well.
Hantavirus can lie dormant in the system for up to six weeks before flu-like symptoms start to show. Humans can’t spread it to each other.
Meanwhile as travelers head to the park for Labor Day weekend, Yosemite officials aren’t notifying future visitors of the dangers, but are telling them during check-in to keep an eye out for mice droppings.
“This is a serious public health issue and we want to be transparent, but at the same time we don’t want people to alter their plans, because we are taking the necessary precautions,” the spokesman said.
Scientists at the park are currently trying to trap rodents and test them, as well as try to determine whether the rodent population is abnormally high.
For more information on the hantavirus, check out the CDC’s site: http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus
Yosemite officials say 1,700 visitors risk disease [Associated Press]