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Hantavirus Precautions

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Sacramento, CA — Two Californians, one of whom died, have been diagnosed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and might have been exposed while at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park.

Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state public health officer says “Hantavirus is a rare but serious disease spread by rodents,” Chapman also says, “This disease can frequently become fatal, but there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure.”

Public health officials believe the two recent patients might have been exposed to mice droppings or urine that contained hantavirus while vacationing at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park.

CDPH and Yosemite National Park Public Health Service officers routinely conduct rodent surveillance to monitor deer mouse abundance and virus activity in mouse populations. Yosemite also conducts routine rodent proofing inspections of buildings and facilities throughout the park. Not all deer mice carry hantavirus, but deer mice with hantavirus have been found throughout the United States.

With recommendations from CDPH, Yosemite National Park has increased routine measures to reduce the risk of hantavirus exposure to Park visitors. These efforts include regular thorough inspection and cleaning of rooms and cabins, exclusion of deer mice and other rodents from buildings, maintaining good housekeeping and sanitation levels to discourage rodent infestations, and public education.

Since HPS was first identified in 1993, there have been 60 cases in California and 587 cases nationally. About one third of HPS cases identified in California were fatal. The two recent cases bring the total California case count for 2012 to four.

The illness starts 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.

For additional information on preventing HPS, visit CDPH’s Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Hantavirus Web site page here