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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome in the United States (Update)

10 Sep 2012

The National Park Service has received confirmation from national and state public health agencies of a further four cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) linked to four individuals who stayed one night or more in Yosemite since June of this year.

The at-risk area remains the Signature Tented cabins in Curry Village. Three cases have been fatal; the five remaining individuals are either improving or recovering. The confirmed cases include six individuals from California, one from Pennsylvania, and one from West Virginia. The types of hantavirus that cause HPS in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

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 harbor 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.