August 31, 2012 - Yosemite National Park continues to scale up its public health response and outreach as a result of six confirmed cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in individuals who visited the park in June of this year. The National Park Service Office of Public Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to heighten public health awareness and detection and has issued a call for cases to state and local health departments nationwide.
Hantavirus is a rare but serious disease that occurs throughout the United States and is caused by a virus that individuals get through contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. The types of Hantavirus that cause HPS in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Early medical attention is critical for individuals who contract Hantavirus.
"Early medical attention and diagnosis of Hantavirus are critical," stated Don Neubacher, Superintendent of Yosemite National Park. "We urge anyone who may have been exposed to the infection to see their doctor at the first sign of symptoms and to advise them of the potential of Hantavirus."
The National Park Service Office of Public Health has confirmed six cases of Hantavirus that have been linked to Yosemite National Park. Two of the six cases have resulted in fatalities. The other four individuals are improving or recovered.
An extensive outreach effort is underway by Yosemite National Park and the park concessioner to contact visitors who stayed in the "Signature Tent Cabins" at Yosemite's Curry Village since mid-June where four of the confirmed cases have stayed.
Approximately 3,000 registered parties have been contacted through email, mail or phone calls to inform them of the recent cases of Hantavirus and to advise them to seek immediate medical attention if they exhibit any symptoms of the virus.
Two community and employee meetings were held in Yosemite National Park on August 29 to discuss awareness and precautions related to Hantavirus. In addition, a non-emergency phone line has been set up–for questions and concerns related to Hantavirus in Yosemite (209) 372-0822. The phones are staffed from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Hantavirus information is distributed to every visitor entering Yosemite and notices are posted throughout the park.
"The park and public health officials are contacting visitors and raising awareness in the medical community to increase the chances that any additional cases that may be incubating will be successfully diagnosed and treated early," stated Dr. Danielle Buttke, an epidemiologist with the National Park Service Office of Public Health.
Most infections are caused by breathing small particles of mouse urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air. If the virus is contracted, the symptoms appear 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.
The National Park Service has closed the Signature Tent Cabins at Yosemite and intensified building inspections and assessments and cleanings throughout the park.
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