Monday, 3 September 2012

Outbreak of deadly hantavirus in Yosemite National Park, warning issued to 10,000 visitors

Bad news for U.S. campers as a recent viral outbreak in one of the most popular national parks in the country, California’s Yosemite National Park, has already claimed two lives and has put at risk nearly thousands of others as officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have officially announced an outbreak of the deadly hantavirus.
The announcement came as a camper died earlier this month, while another victim, a 37-year-old man from the San Francisco Bay area also died, with four confirmed cases of the virus reported soon after. Officials have said that all campers who stayed in the park’s Curry Village from mid-June onwards are at risk of having contracted this deadly respiratory virus, with the virus warning being sent out to nearly 10,000 campers. According to the CDC, around 10,000 people stayed in the park’s Curry Village campsite and all these campers are at risk of having contracted the virus. The park receives annual traffic of some nearly 4 million visitors with the majority, around 70 per cent visiting the Yosemite Valley, where the Curry Village campsite is located, known particularly for its “signature” insulated cabins.
However officials found an outbreak of deer mice, nesting in the insulation between the walls of these cabins and earlier this week closed down all 91 of these luxury cabins. The Hantavirus is most commonly found in infected rodent droppings, urine and saliva and can be spread in a variety of ways with the virus being contracted from dried droppings or contaminated substances being inhaled, consumed or even touched with even bites from the rodents passing on the disease.
No known cure exists for the virus, which takes up to six weeks to show symptoms, which include extreme breathing difficulty, headache, and fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches and coughs and in one third of the cases is found to be fatal.
While this is not the first outbreak of the Hantavirus, with previous cases being noted in 2000 and 2010, this has been the first time outbreak with confirmed fatalities and CDC has spread its investigation to "multiple health jurisdictions" while also asking doctors to contact state authorities if they diagnose any Hantavirus cases. At present the CDC has contacted almost 3,000 groups of visitors and a hotline has also been established which has, according to officials, received thousands of calls.
But even with a virus scare, visits to the national park are not down, with Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb saying "Right now it's normal numbers for Friday. There have been cancellations, but it would be grossly overstated to say they're cancelling en masse. There's quite a bit of people out there still. It's still summer and a holiday weekend. It's still the summer crowds."

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