Yosemite officials sent out emails on Tuesday to 1,700 previous visitors to inform them they may have been exposed to the rodent virus which recently killed two people who had visited the national park.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people can contract hantavirus pulmonary syndrome from the urine and droppings of rodents, especially deer mice.
From mid-June through the end of August, at-risk visitors stayed in the “Signature Tent Cabins” in Yosemite National Park’s Curry Village, a popular site at the base of the 3,000-foot promontory Glacier Point.
Officials said it would be impossible to track everyone who has visited Curry Village since the park receives thousands of visitors each month.
Park officials said anyone experiencing symptoms such as fever, aches, dizziness or chills – which can take up to six weeks to develop following exposure – should seek immediate medical attention.
And now, the bad news: There’s no specific treatment for the respiratory illness.
Park spokesman Scott Gediman said that health officials learned over the weekend of the second hantavirus-related death.
Both that person and the previous victim – a 37-year-old man from Alameda County – visited the park around the same time in June.
A woman who stayed in a canvas tent cabin about 100 feet away from the man also became seriously ill.
Gediman said the Delaware North Co., which runs the park’s lodging facilities, is working to eliminate areas where the mice can invade the cabins. But he said that cleanliness is not the issue at hand:
“…it was never because we didn’t take care of (the cabins). This is just because approximately 20 percent of all deer mice are infected with hantavirus. And they’re here in Yosemite Valley.”
Only one-third of the 587 documented U.S. cases have proved fatal since the virus was identified in 1993.
Officials said this year’s deaths mark the first fatalities for visitors, although two similar cases were reported in 2000 and 2010.