Hantavirus outbreak at Yosemite National Park leaves 100 Brits at risk
7th September 2012
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a statement warning that thousands of people who have stayed in the tent cabins at Yosemite National Park this summer, may have been exposed to a particularly dangerous rodent virus named ‘hantavirus’. It is estimated that roughly 10,000 people from all around the world have holidayed at the site during this summer alone, and included in this total are about 100 Brits. This has led to UK health officials conducting frantic telephone calls to let them know that are at risk. In total, 39 countries have received warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it is estimated that 2,500 of the 10,000 people at risk actually emanate from outside the U.S. The Californian campsite was immediately closed by Park officials last week after the discovery of a major fault in the construction of the cabins meant that deer mice were able to roam inside the insulated walls after burrowing into holes no bigger than a pencil rubber. Officials believe that rodent faeces, urine and saliva have all managed to combine with dust and unfortunately then inhaled by the unlucky tourists, often limited to small living spaces. The visitors also face a high risk of infection if bitten by any of the rodents, or by consuming contaminated food. The state Department of Health have confirmed that a male from northern California and another from Pennsylvania have already died from the disease, three victims have managed to make a recovery and there remains one victim still in hospital receiving treatment. The panic is so high at the moment that Yosemite Park officials say they are currently getting over 1,000 calls each day from terrified visitors to the site. Since hantavirus was first identified back in 1993, it has claimed the lives of 590 Americans and kills approximately 38% of those who contract the disease. Its symptoms do not show until around after six weeks after infection and are quite similar to the equally deadly swine flu, which is treated by the effective Tamiflu. The earlier symptoms of hantavirus include fever, chills, headache, coughing and shortness of breath. Although sufferers may have a brief period where they better, the disease will usually suddenly get worse and the person may find it very difficult to breathe and experience nausea and vomiting. A spokesperson for The Health Protection Agency (HPA) released a statement earlier this week and said, “Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is a rare but severe respiratory disease, which is sometimes fatal. It is spread by contact with infected rodents, primarily deer mice. Most people become infected by breathing in small viral particles from rodent urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air. The virus causing HPS in the US cannot be passed from person to person. There is no specific treatment for Hantavirus, but early recognition and supportive care can improve the outcome of this severe disease.”