The death from hantavirus of a Californian who had stayed at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park has led to a call for better sanitation and inspection of the popular village in the Yosemite Valley.
Though officials did not confirm that the visitor picked up the deadly virus in the village, where the lodging is managed by Delaware North Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, public health officials "believe the two recent patients might have been exposed to mice droppings or urine that contained hantavirus while vacationing" there, a release posted on the park's website said.
Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state public health officer, took the occasion to remind Californians to take precautions to prevent exposure to the virus that causes HPS at their places of residence, work, and recreation.
"Hantavirus is a rare but serious disease spread by rodents," Dr. Chapman said in the release. "This disease can frequently become fatal, but there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure."
CDPH and Yosemite public health service officers "routinely conduct rodent surveillance to monitor deer mouse abundance and virus activity in mouse populations," the release added. "Yosemite also conducts routine rodent proofing inspections of buildings and facilities throughout the park. Not all deer mice carry hantavirus, but deer mice with hantavirus have been found throughout the United States."
"With recommendations from CDPH, Yosemite National Park has increased routine measures to reduce the risk of hantavirus exposure to Park visitors. These efforts include regular thorough inspection and cleaning of rooms and cabins, exclusion of deer mice and other rodents from buildings, maintaining good housekeeping and sanitation levels to discourage rodent infestations, and public education."
Since HPS was first identified in 1993, there have been 60 cases in California and 587 cases nationally, according to the release.
"About one-third of HPS cases identified in California were fatal. The two recent cases bring the total California case count for 2012 to four," the release added. "Case-patients have been exposed to hantavirus in many areas in California where deer mice live, particularly from the eastern Sierra Nevada region and at higher elevations."
The release explained that "HPS is caused by a virus that individuals get through contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected wild mice, primarily deer mice. Breathing small particles of mouse urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air is the most common means of acquiring infection. The illness starts one to six weeks after exposure with fever, headache, and muscle ache, and progresses rapidly to severe difficulty in breathing and, in some cases, death."