Hantavirus: Yosemite Campers Catch Rare Disease

    August 20, 2012
    Sean Patterson
    Comments are off for this post.

A rare disease that killed one man and sickened a woman has been linked to a camping spot in Yosemite National Park. The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that a man who stayed at the Curry Villiage camping spot in Yosemite died from hantavirus. A woman who stayed near the man during the same time also contracted hantavirus and has become sick, but is expected to survive.

Park officials told the AP that this is the first hantavirus-related death in the park’s history, though two other cases of hantavirus have been recorded in the past 12 years. Hantavirus symptoms can take weeks to appear in those infected, so campers are being advised to seek medical treatment if they develop any symptoms, which are listed below.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes hantavirus as a life-threatening disease spread by rodents, especially deer mice. The early symptoms of hantavirus, such as fever, chills, and muscle ache, are similar to the flu. After this period, those infected can begin to feel better, but find it hard to breathe within 1-2 days. A dry cough, malaise, headache, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath are further symptoms of hantavirus. If not admitted to a hospital promptly, the virus can cause lung, kidney, and/or heart failure, leading to death. According to the NIH, there is no effective treatment for hantavirus infection involving the lungs, and more than half of those infected in their lungs die, even with aggressive treatment including breathing machines.

The NIH advises that people avoid exposure to rodent urine and droppings to decrease their risk for hantavirus. The NIH website even contains detailed instructions on working in an area where rodent droppings are likely to be. The process involves airing out the area, disinfecting it, and spraying mouse nests with a bleach solution before incinerating them.

  • kassy

    You misspelled fever….and wrote feaver….

    • Sean Patterson

      Corrected. Thank you!

  • http://hantavirusatYosemite Ann

    My brother just got back from Yosemite last night after spending a few days in the infested tents. After finding mouse droppings in the tent and their luggage and after talking to the health department that was setting traps, they are seriously worried about their health. After talking to someone at the camp office who didn’t want to worry the other campers, they left. No one wanted to talk to them about the situtation, it was like “Jaws”, they needed the tourism. Very scary, too bad they aren’t letting the visitors decide what is best for them.

    • Sarah Eastment

      MY brother just returned from camping there too, on the 26 August, well after the man had died from Hantavirus and was told nothing about it. The fact that people were not warned is outrageous, the camp should have been closed immediately after the infections were discovered.

      • Tereza

        We slept in the tent on the 19 August… I cannot believe that so long after the first cases appeared no one has told us anything, we got absolutely no warning!!
        They only sent us an e-mail about the infection 1 week after we left.. I would have prefered to choose what is best for me!

  • Nancy D

    Your article, along with other media services, keeps showing a picture of the basic and older cabins in the 400 series. The problem, so far, has been with the fancier 900 series Signature cabins which have different construction and insulation. It would be great if you could show a picture of the problematic tent cabins. BTW, I stayed in a 400 series tent cabin from August 26-28. I don’t think the concessionaire or the NPS were doing enough at that time to keep their employees or guests safe…sweeping up and cleaning dust off tents without masks, only handing out hantavirus brochures at Curry Village reception when asked, etc. While handing in my keys, a couple in a 900 series cabin complained to the desk clerk about an infestation of small “critters” in their cabin and they were clearly oblivious to the deer mice/hantavirus danger. Those 900 cabins were closed soon thereafter.