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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome in the United States

29 Aug 2012

The California Department of Public Health has reported a cluster of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) infections involving four visitors to Yosemite National Park. Three of the cases have been confirmed as HPS, two of which have died and the fourth case is considered 'probable' and awaits confirmation.

The cases are not related but all visited the park in mid-June 2012, and stayed in tent cabins in Curry Village located within 100 feet of each other.

Park authorities are contacting visitors who stayed in 'Signature Tent Cabins' at Curry Village from mid-June through to the end of August. These individuals are being informed of the recent cases and are being advised to seek immediate medical attention if they exhibit any symptoms of hantavirus.

Advice for Travellers

Hantavirus infection is normally considered a low risk for travellers. HPS is caused by a virus that individuals get through contact with the urine, droppings or saliva of infected wild mice, primarily deer mice. Breathing small particles of mouse urine or droppings that have been stirred up into the air is the most common means of acquiring infection.

The illness starts one to six weeks after exposure with fever, headache, and muscle ache, and progresses rapidly to severe difficulty in breathing and, in some cases, death.

When you are in rural areas or places that harbour mice, you can take the following steps to prevent HPS:

  • 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.
  • If you can clean your sleeping or living area, open windows to air out the areas for at least two 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.