New cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rare rodent-borne illness, have been linked to Yosemite National Park’s Curry Village campground, bringing the total number of people infected in the park to six.
The six all visited Yosemite National Park between June and mid-July, according to information released Thursday evening by the California Department of Public Health.
Two of the people, a 36-year-old Alameda County man and a 43-year-old man from Pennsylvania, have died. The first patient, a 49-year-old Southern California woman, was released from the hospital on July 18 and is expected to survive.
Two other patients have recovered, and yet another is hospitalized but improving. More specific information about these patients was unavailable Thursday.
Four of the Yosemite hantavirus patients, including both fatalities, stayed in “Signature Tent Cabins” in the Boystown area of Curry Village. The fifth stayed in an unspecified area of Curry Village, and another case is still under investigation.
As of Thursday evening, park concessionaire DNC was attempting to contact 2,900 park visitors who stayed in Curry Village through Aug. 24.
The signature tent cabins were closed indefinitely on Aug. 28 by recommendation of the California Department of Public Health. With work starting about two weeks ago, they are being renovated to seal out mice, according to park spokesman Scott Gediman.
Since hantavirus was discovered in the Southwestern United States in 1993, 63 cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome have been reported in California. So far this year, seven California cases have been confirmed — five in Yosemite National Park.
Hantavirus symptoms typically don’t appear for one to six weeks after initial exposure to the virus. They begin with fever and aches, which can move on to severe difficulty breathing and symptoms similar to pneumonia or bronchitis.
Humans 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 into the air, such as from sweeping.
Yosemite National Park has set up a non-emergency hotline, staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, for questions and concerns related to hantavirus in the park. Visitors with questions may call 372-0822.