A second person has died and another has been stricken with a rare rodent-borne illness after visiting Yosemite National Park in June.
The National Park Service’s Office of Public Health was informed of the two new cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, linked to the park’s popular Curry Village lodging area, over the weekend, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said late Monday evening.
Four hantavirus cases have been linked to the park this summer. Those include a Bay Area man who died of the disease in late July and a Southern California woman who became seriously ill but is expected to survive.
The identities of the four people who have contracted the virus have not been released. The areas where the two latest patients live was not immediately available.
Park concessionaire DNC Parks & Resorts in Yosemite said it is attempting to contact visitors who stayed in “signature tent cabins” at Curry Village from mid-June through the end of August, the news release said.
Those individuals are being informed of the cases and advised to seek immediate medical attention if they begin to exhibit symptoms of hantavirus, which begins with fever and aches but can progress to a severe difficulty breathing with symptoms similar to pneumonia or bronchitis.
Symptoms usually don’t begin to appear until one to six weeks after initial exposure to the virus.
People contract hantavirus through contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents, primarily deer mice. Experts say people typically contract the disease after dried particles of mouse urine or droppings have been stirred up into the air, such as from sweeping.
There have been 60 confirmed cases in California and 587 nationally since hantavirus was identified in 1993, following an outbreak in the southwestern United States. About a third of cases have resulted in death.
“The health of our visitors is our paramount concern and we are making every effort to notify and inform our visitors of any potential illness,” Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher said in a statement released Monday evening.
“Because people often don’t get sick from hantavirus until one to six weeks after exposure, we are encouraging anyone who stayed in Curry Village since June to be aware of the symptoms of hantavirus and seek medical attention at the first sign of illness,” he said.
The National Park Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to heighten public awareness and detection, the park statement said. Yosemite and DNC Parks & Resorts have also increased education efforts geared toward visitors and employees.
Park officials said after the first two cases were made public Aug. 16 that cleaning crews had disinfected all lodging in the village, which features nearly 500 canvas and wooden-sided cabins.
The park has declined to reveal the exact cabin numbers where the people infected with hantavirus were staying, but in the first two cases the visitors were in tent cabins about 100 feet apart between June 10 and 13.
According to Monday’s statement, the NPS and California Department of Public Health periodically conduct rodent surveys to gauge deer mouse abundance and the prevalence of diseases.
The release said increased rodent-trapping and rodent-proofing of tent cabins and other buildings has been conducted since the hantavirus outbreak. They say the park will continue to routinely clean and inspect facilities.
These aren’t the first cases of hantavirus being linked to the park, but are the first two that have resulted in deaths.
Two visitors in 2000 and 2010 contracted hantavirus after staying in the remote Tuolumne Meadows area of the park.
A 2010 California Department of Public Health study found that 18 percent of deer mice tested throughout several areas of the park were infected with hantavirus, stating that the outbreak earlier that year “underscored the ongoing risk and need for dutiful adherence to a rodent exclusion and control program.”
Representatives for Yosemite National Park and DNC Parks & Resorts didn’t return requests for comment Monday evening.
Yosemite has set up a general, non-emergency hotline for all questions and concerns related to hantavirus within the park at 209-372-0822, which will be staffed daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.