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Hanta Virus in Yosemite
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David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Hanta Virus in Yosemite on 08/30/2012 13:48:51 MDT Print View

Here's the text of the email that I was sent because 2 weeks ago we stayed in Curry Village:

You are receiving this letter to advise you of a public health matter that has been brought to our attention.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently advised the National Park Service (NPS) and DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite (Delaware North) that four individuals who visited Yosemite National Park and stayed in Curry Village in June 2012 contracted hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Two of these cases resulted in fatalities.

HPS is a rare but serious disease that can be fatal. Humans can become infected with the virus through contact with the urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents, primarily deer mice. Not all mice are infected with the virus, but infected rodents have been found throughout the United States. Most cases of HPS have been infected by breathing small particles of mouse urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air.

The illness can start from one to six weeks after exposure, with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, or cough. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The disease progresses rapidly to severe difficulty breathing. Early medical attention greatly increases the chance of survival in cases of HPS. It is recommended that if you, or anyone in your party, has any of the symptoms listed above, particularly fever, muscle aches, or cough, that you seek health care immediately and advise your health care professional of the recent cases of HPS described above.

In conjunction with CDPH and NPS, Delaware North has procedures in place to reduce the risk of HPS, including regular inspection and cleaning of rooms and cabins, exclusion of mice and rodents from structures, good housekeeping and sanitation practices, and increased employee and public awareness. The CDPH and NPS have reviewed and approved the procedures in place for Curry Village.

Yosemite National Park has set up a general, non-emergency phone line for all questions and concerns related to hantavirus in Yosemite National Park. The phone number is 209-372-0822 and it will be staffed from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. For additional information on HPS, visit the CDC's Hantavirus website.

I recognize that this notice may raise concerns on your part, but it is being sent in the interest of public health. If you or any member of your party has the symptoms described, please immediately seek the attention of a medical professional.


Dan Jensen
DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Me and Hanta Virus on 08/30/2012 14:05:57 MDT Print View

I have a number of reactions to this, one of which is that stuff happens and that critters live in the woods.

Another thought is: Am I some kind of a Hanta Virus magnet?!? That first big outbreak / news report was 1993 or 1994 in the Southwest, and guess when I heard the news? Upon my return from an extended caving trip in Nevada, crawling through several rodent-infested caves each day, including one with a 50 meter hands-and-knees crawl through centuries of packrat urine/poo so dense that the ammonia was a little overpowering at times.

And now it's not just that I (with wife, our two young children, parents-in-laws and sibs-in-law) stayed in Yosemite, but in Curry Village where all the cases are from. Further, all the cases are from the tent cabins, specifically all from the Signature Tent Cabin (the upper-end ones) that we stayed in. And while there weren't rodent droppings on the table, my nose told me there were nesting somewhere in the platform tent and I saw several scurry away. Sigh. Other alarming bits: daughter and wife have asthma. Parents in-law are 72 but at least they've made it to their 50th anniversary (that's why we were there).

Good news: We're all in good shape (summitted Half Dome, including our 7-year-old!), all feeling good, my wife is an MD, and we all see doctors (socially, usually) many times a week.

I'd seen the earlier news reports about the last round of Hanta Virus in Yosemite and (mostly for bear etiquette reasons) we were scrupulous with food storage. But I would have appreciated Delaware North / NPS being more specific - telling what they knew when they knew it - that all these cases had been exclusively in these particular tent cabins. I wonder if these fancier, semi-walled structures (because they have heaters) are problematic because those walls offer nice, protected, (insulated?) places to nest/eat/defecate in a way that the simpler canvas tent cabins don't.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Me and Hanta Virus on 08/30/2012 14:15:25 MDT Print View

David - best wishes that you and your family will be ok.

In 1995 while on a June climbing trip in the Valley, I stayed at a tent cabin in Housekeeping, 2 or 3 concrete walls and 1 or 2 canvas walls.
A week after returning home I came down with one of the worst flus I'd ever had.
never considered it might be Hanta Virus until this years outbreaks.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Hanta Virus in Yosemite on 09/01/2012 16:50:05 MDT Print View

This bothered me :
"Most cases of HPS have been infected by breathing small particles of mouse urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air. "

A friend of mine pointed out to me years ago that when we "smell" something we are breathing in molecules coming from the source of that smell.
He in fact used a word to describe that but can't remember what it was.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Hantavirus on 09/02/2012 08:07:15 MDT Print View

It's bad to see any news of a disease outbreak; and hantavirus is very serious. There is always somebody who gets it-- it's an inevitable part of frequenting areas where rodents live. It always pains me, as a guy who works with/for rodents in his life/job, to think of what an outbreak of this degree (not quite a pandemic, but big) of hantavirus means.

Hantavirus is indeed spread primarily through rodent vectors. The species of rodent most responsible for it varies from location to location, but usually it's a mouse or a rat. Neither of those families likes to get near humans, for obvious reasons; but when there's no place else for them to find quality food, regular water and shelter, they "head into town." (Rats have become "city dwellers" mainly because they've never found a better combination of things!)

Deer mice (of which there are many species), in the wild, tend to favor grasslands with clumps of shrubs, pine/fir groves with some understory, and (of course) water from low volume, gently flowing, very shallow streams. They get plenty of seeds, nuts and insects to eat in those places ("bumper crops" of pine nuts have been correlated with hantavirus outbreaks in the past). When the water dries up, they move on to the next nearest place... and the one after that... etc.

My suspicion is that, if there has been a major outbreak in Yosemite, then something has motivated the mice to come into the villages in greater numbers than usual. The challenge would be figuring out what factors could have/must have allowed for that to happen, so that we can tell where/when it might happen again.

Edited by carpenh on 09/02/2012 16:54:15 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Hantavirus on 09/02/2012 09:18:56 MDT Print View

This event is in Yosemite, not Yellowstone.

It coincided with the construction of insulated double wall "luxury cabins" in Curry Village to replace those at risk from rockfall.

It turns out the the "new and improved" double wall are a perfect and invisible habitat, when compared to the old single wall canvas tents. Can't see the mice, can't spray the source.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Re: on 09/02/2012 16:56:59 MDT Print View

"This event is in Yosemite, not Yellowstone."

Thanks for correcting me. There's only so much I can accuse autocorrect of.

It seems plausible that the cabins would make it easier for the mice to hide.

Edited by carpenh on 09/02/2012 16:59:23 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Hantavirus on 09/02/2012 18:19:15 MDT Print View

"My suspicion is that, if there has been a major outbreak in Yosemite, then something has motivated the mice to come into the villages in greater numbers than usual. The challenge would be figuring out what factors could have/must have allowed for that to happen, so that we can tell where/when it might happen again."

I think you pretty much answered your own question, Harrison: "(Rats have become "city dwellers" mainly because they've never found a better combination of things!)" The same applies to mice and rats, both of which are endemic to areas populated by humans. In a word, "If you build it, they will come".

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Curry Cabins on 09/02/2012 20:10:56 MDT Print View

My wife and I stayed in a tent cabin at Curry @ May 1st and I took a couple of photos since I have built a similar sized frame to support clear tarps for a seasonal greenhouse and was sort of interested in the very minimal frame used in the Curry Village tent cabins. I think the structure of the tarps that make up the "tent" part of the structure must actually do a lot to hold the things together. As you can see from the exterior shot the floors are a simple deck built using 4X4 pilings. Be pretty easy for mice to get in. You are NOT supposed to have food in the cabins..ohhh yeah I can imagine that rule is strictly obeyed. Still begs the question of how the virus got aerosolized from the droppings/urine. What would you do that would stir it up enough to get it circulating through the air and inhaled. Wonder if any of the cleaning staff have gotten sick? Why would anyone chance staying in a Curry cabin now that this has occurred?

Too bad we really enjoyed our stay and liked the camp-like atmosphere and the fancy granite vanities in the main shower. Woo Hoo. No it was fun! I think it's ridiculous the Ahwahnee has th demand to get away with charging $435.00 a night for a room... seriously. I guess there's location, location, location but you have to draw a line if for no other reason that having a little self-respect.

And I guess the notifications from Delaware North don't extend back to early May.

interior frame: Curry Cabin

Exterior:Exterior Curry Cabin

Good point Greg about the insulated cabins. We stayed in one of those our first night but didn't see the point in the interior "walls" especially since they cost more and the location wasn't as close to the better facilities and the food court. I could see how those walls might be a perfect hideout for the mice, and sorry didn't take a shot of that "cabin"

Oh and David, an article I read yesterday said all the cases were within 100 feet which would mean confined to @ 10-12 cabins? Speaking of New Mexico and the Southwestern outbreak; Back in '93, '94 we had just finished crawling through a bunch of mice filled ruins @ Cedar Mesa. Still crawl into those when I get the chance; but now we cover our face w/ a bandanna, breathe lightly and don't stir the mouse droppings.

Edited by obxcola on 09/02/2012 20:32:44 MDT.