Yosemite Virus Outbreak Linked to Curry Village “Signature” Tent Cabins

Information discovered this week in connection to the recent Yosemite Park hantavirus outbreak suggests that park officials may have known that campers faced a risk of contracting the potentially deadly virus since 2010, but did not enact a plan of action until this April. 

Approximately 1,700 visitors who stayed at Yosemite National Park’s Curry Village during the months of June, July and August 2012 were recently warned that they may have been exposed to the rodent-borne virus, after at least two unrelated tourists died after staying in the Park’s tent-cabins over the summer.

The “signature” tent cabins of Curry Village have now been closed indefinitely at California’s famous national park, after an outbreak of at least six illnesses have been identified. It is believed that the Yosemite visitors contracted hantavirus from deer mice that nest in and around the tent cabins.

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Officials indicate that the double-walled design of the “signature” tents, which is meant to keep out the elements, were ideal nesting places for the mice. Park workers are attempting to seal the tent cabins against deer mouse intrusion, but the creatures are ubiquitous in the park and can go through holes only a quarter inch in diameter.

State Health Department Warned Park in 2010

Concerns and warnings about the potential risk of hantavirus in the park were raised in a 2010 report from the California Department of Health, which called for an increase in rodent inspection efforts. It also called for stepped up measures in keeping the mice away from sleeping campers.

The report came after a hantavirus case in the park’s Tuolumne Meadows. But a new hantavirus prevention policy was not enacted until April 25, and park officials say they did not realize the level of deer mouse infestation in the double-walled design of the Curry Village “Signature” tent cabins.

Hantavirus Outbreak Unusual

The six hantavirus illnesses identified are unusual, as the lung disease typically appears in individual cases. There have only been about 600 total reported in the U.S. since 1993.

Hantavirus is transferred to humans when they breathe air contaminated with the virus or come in contact with deer mouse saliva, urine or droppings infected with it. The deer mouse is native to the central and western United States and Canada.

The disease can incubate for up to six weeks until common symptoms, which are often confused with influenza, appear. Early symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, stomach problems, dizziness and chills. Symptoms typically develop between one and five weeks after exposure and later symptoms of the virus also include coughing and shortness of breath. 

Hantavirus has a mortality rate of 38 percent. A blood test can diagnose the virus and while there is no official treatment, it is commonly combated by placing a patient in intensive care and offering oxygen therapy.

Photo Courtesy of MiguelVieira via Flickr/CC 2.0

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2 Comments

  • irmaSeptember 6, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Hi, fortunally I have not symptom, by now, and I staid in Cyurry Village on aug 13th; still hoping. Is somene starting a legal class action against curry village or yosemite park...they had other cases link to them on 1993...and also in the poast few years!! please leyt me know. Thanks Irma

  • milivoSeptember 5, 2012 at 7:57 am

    We stayed there on 19 August... just one night, but in those tents, too... I cannot believe no one has even warned us about it! (I understand that in July probably no one knew what exactly was going on, but at the end of August?!?) I would at least expect to get a leaflet with a warning, although I would have prefered to be just told to find accommodation somewhere else...

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