Fresno, CA – A rare, rodent-borne disease has killed one man and sickened a woman who may have been exposed to the disease while vacationing at Yosemite National Park.
According to CNN, the two victims, both from California, contracted hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome, a rare but often fatal lung disease, possibly by being exposed to contaminated mice droppings or urine during their stay at the park. The man, a 37-year-old from the Bay area, died in July. The sick woman, who is from Southern California, was expected to survive.
“There’s no way to tell for sure, but state health officials feel they may have contracted it here,” park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
Bloomberg reports that both victims stayed at the park on overlapping days in June in canvas tent cabins located about 100 feet from each other, park officials said. Tent cabins are built on wooden platforms and are impossible to completely seal.
Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health showed the virus was present in fecal matter from deer mice trapped in Curry Village — the historic, family friendly area where the victims’ cabins were located.
“It’s a wilderness setting and the inspections have shown that the park concessionaire has done an excellent job at keeping them clean,” Gediman said. “But there are rodents in the wilderness and some of them are infected and that’s what happens.”
No other hantavirus cases have been reported, but symptoms can show up one to six weeks after exposure.
There is no specific treatment for the virus, and about one-third of people who contract it will die.
There have been 60 cases in California and 587 nationally since hantavirus pulmonary syndrome was first identified in 1993. These two new cases bring the number of people stricken in California this year to four.