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Yosemite Looking For Answers On Deadly Virus

Yosemite, CA – Nearly 400 workers at Yosemite National Park have volunteered for Hanta-virus testing.  Park epidemiologists and doctors with the California Department of Public Health say the testing consists of a survey asking workers questions ranging from what’s their job, whether they deal with mice on the job and, if so, how do they handle them. The other part of the test involves drawing blood from park employees. They say that testing began yesterday and will be finished around four this afternoon.

State Health Officials say the blood testing will hopefully detect if any workers have had the mice-borne Hanta-virus in the past and help scientists better understand the virus that killed three park visitors this summer. They are trying to determine how many people might have been exposed to the virus and why some people get sick and others don’t.

Occupational Health Branch Physician in the California Department of Health, Rachel Roisman, says; “We are checking to see if there is any evidence of previous infection among these employees being tested and, if so, whether there is any correlation between previous infection and any of the other things we’re looking at. You know, where people work, the work they do, what kind of protective measures they take. Anybody that tests positive we’ll be following up with a phone interview and asking more detailed questions about their work history and other activities.”

Roisman say the blood test results could take several weeks. She says once they have the results they will compile a report to give to the park and the public.

Nine people who spent time at the park this summer have been infected with the virus. Eight of the cases are linked to the Curry Village “Signature Tent Cabins” and one is connected to the Tuolumne Meadows area.

Three people have died from the illness. All of them stayed in the Curry Village tents. Health Officials won’t release the names of those victims. They have said one is a 36 year-old man from Alameda County, another is 45 year-old man from Pennsylvania and the third is a person from West Virginia.