Jul 30, 2014

HEALTH WARNING: Have You Been To Yosemite?

Hantavirus has killed two Yosemite visitors and four more are now reported ill. The virus was found just east of Temecula earlier this year as well.

HEALTH WARNING: Have You Been To Yosemite?

The Associated Press is reporting that past visitors to Yosemite National Park may have been exposed to a rodent-borne disease that has claimed human lives.

Four people who spent time in Signature Tent Cabins at Curry Village between June 10-20 have contracted Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, an illness spread by rodent feces, urine and saliva. Two other people who stayed in the cabins at about the same time have died, according to the news agency.

“One of the people who died was from outside California. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed the death within the past few days. Two other people were infected and expected to survive,” The Associated Press reported.

The other victim was a 37-year-old man from San Francisco, The Associated Press reported.

About 1,700 past visitors were contacted Tuesday by Yosemite officials, The Associated Press reported. The park is warning the disease can take up to six weeks to incubate in humans.

to take precautions against the deadly virus that’s spread by common deer mice.

Two deer mice collected in December 2011 near the Sage area, just east of Temecula, tested positive for Hantavirus.

Between 2001 and 2010, approximately 13 percent of the deer mice collected in Riverside County tested positive for Hantavirus, which is fairly consistent with the average for California, according to Riverside County health officials.

In Yosemite, park officials are taking action.

"This is certainly an issue and we're getting word out," park spokesman Scott Gediman told The Associated Press. "We're very concerned about visitors and employees, but we feel we are taking proactive steps in both cleaning the affected areas and in public education.

"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," Gediman continued.

According to Riveside County health officials, Hantavirus may be transmitted by inhalation of tiny droplets contaminated with the virus from deer mouse secretions such as droppings and urine.  Infectious deer mice do not appear to show any signs of illness so it is important to keep from stirring-up materials while cleaning up any mouse infested areas around homes, especially in rural areas.  Residents can take the following steps to reduce their exposure to Hantavirus:

• Ventilate the affected area the night before cleanup by opening doors and windows.

• Use rubber gloves.

• Apply household disinfectants at maximum recommended concentrations for rodents, rodent droppings, nests, contaminated traps and surrounding area and allow at least 15 minutes contact time before removal.

• Clean the affected area with a sponge or mop. DO NOT SWEEP OR VACUUM.

• Double-bag the disinfectant-soaked rodent and clean-up materials (newspaper, paper towels, etc.) securely in plastic bags and seal.

• Before removing gloves, wash gloved hands in disinfectant, and then in soap and water. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after removing gloves. Dispose of gloves and clean-up materials with other household waste.

The early warning signs of human infection may include fever, headache, muscle aches, vomiting and abdominal pain. These symptoms may last a few hours to several days.  As the illness progresses, the lungs fill with fluid, making breathing difficult. Respiratory failure can follow rapidly, according to county health officials.

Individuals having concerns about illness should contact their health provider.  

For more information on Hantavirus and the Vector Control Program, contact the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health in Hemet at (951) 766-9454 or www.rivcoeh.org.

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