A rare, relatively little-known virus, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, has made headlines at Yosemite National Park. An ABC News report provides details on the sad news of 2 visitor deaths linked to the virus.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the park has contacted 1,700 people visitors to Yosemite’s Curry Village (where the virus was detected) between mid-June and mid-August. A park ranger calls the outbreak "unprecedented." The illness is caused when people come in contact with urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents, chiefly deer mice.
Cleanliness is a key factor in avoiding the virus. Yosemite officials have published these guidelines for preventing hantavirus, which we share here with the hope they will help you recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations:
- Avoid areas, especially indoors, where wild rodents are likely to have been present.
- Keep food in tightly sealed containers and store away from rodents.
- Keep rodents out of buildings by removing stacked wood, rubbish piles, and discarded junk from around homes and sealing any holes where rodents could enter.
- When cleaning a sleeping or living area, open windows to air out the areas for at least 2 hours before entering. Take care not to stir up dust. Wear plastic gloves and spray areas contaminated with rodent droppings and urine with a 10% bleach solution or other household disinfectants and wait at least 15 minutes before cleaning the area. Place the waste in double plastic bags, each tightly sealed, and discard in the trash. Wash hands thoroughly afterward.
- Do not touch or handle live rodents and wear gloves when handling dead rodents. Spray dead rodents with a disinfectant and dispose of in the same way as droppings. Wash hands thoroughly after handling dead rodents.
- If there are large numbers of rodents in a home or other buildings, contact a pest control service to remove them.
Half Dome/Curry Village photo by T.D. Wood. Deer mouse photo by CDC.