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15th September 2012
Yosemite National Park has alerted more than 230,000 campers, following its initial warning to 1,700 last month. Here's what you need to know about hantavirus
Initial warnings were sent to 1,700 people in August when the outbreak occurred; this was then increased to 30,000 visitors, who had all slept in two different locations. As a precautionary measure, the warning has now been extended to a further 230,000 people, who stayed in other locations around the national park.
A statement published three days ago (12 September) on the Yosemite National Park website said: "Because we have heard from concerned guests who stayed throughout the park, today we are reaching out to additional overnight visitors to raise awareness
about this rare disease and to ensure they know where to find information regarding hantavirus."
The hantavirus is a mouse-borne virus that has so far infected nine people; three of whom have died.
A total of six cases of hantavirus, in travellers who recently stayed at Yosemite National Park, have been reported. Here's what you need to know
The California Department of Health confirmed last week that hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) has been confirmed in six people. All those affected visited Yosemite National Park between early-June and mid-July of this year. So far, all those infected have been from either California or Pennsylvania. Two people have died from the disease, three have fully recovered and one person is still hospitalised and receiving treatment.
Yosemite National Park has closed all tent cabins in 'Curry Village' in the Boystown area, where the outbreak is thought to have started. Authorities have contacted all travellers who visited between 10 June and 24 August, to warn them of the ongoing problems and raise awareness of the disease.
Symptoms of the disease include: fever, headache and muscle aches, and progresses rapidly to severe difficulty in breathing. Those suffering from symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
Wanderlust contributor Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth explained: “Hantavirus is a nasty infection carried by mice and other rodents. The virus is shed into the environment when an infected animal excretes and then this material can allow the virus to become airborne. The risk then is in poorly ventilated accommodation shared with rodents. It isn’t spread between people and the incubation period is usually two to four weeks.”
Nomad Travel Health Clinics, which offers travellers vaccinations and health advice prior to travel, also warns: “Those who may be in close proximity with rodents, such as travellers undertaking activities in rural areas, eg camping or hiking, should take the following precautions: wash hands thoroughly before eating; avoid direct contact with rodents or their excreta; take measures to avoid attracting rodents (keep food covered and firewood outside); and disinfect areas frequented by rodents while wearing masks and gloves.”
Those planning on visiting Yosemite National Park this summer should keep up-to-date with the situation by following the park's official website. Those who have visited the national park in the affected periods should monitor their health and seek medical attention if symptoms of hantavirus occur.
For more information on the health risks of travel, read Dr Jane Wilson Howarth's How to Shit Around the World, which is available on Amazon in paperback and as an e-book.
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