Two incidences of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) that resulted in the illness of one person and the death of another, have been linked to Yosemite National Park. According to the Los Angeles Times on Friday, officials from California's State Department of Public Health are urging people to take extra precautions to avoid contracting the rare infection, which is fatal up to 40 percent of the time.
In California, the HPS virus is most often carried by deer mice. A spokesperson for Yosemite National Park, Scott Gediman, told the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets on Friday that although the park was stepping up efforts to disinfect cabins and other camping spots throughout the park, it is not possible to completely safeguard against exposure to animals and insects in a natural wilderness like Yosemite.
Here is some key information regarding hantavirus and the cases that have now been linked to Yosemite National Park.
* Hantavirus is primarily carried by rodents. In the United States, deer mice are the most likely culprits, although the virus has been known to be carried by other members of the rodent family, including the cotton rat, the marsh rice rat, and the white-footed mouse, according to Hantavirus.net.
* Humans come into contact with the virus through exposure to the infected rodents themselves, or through exposure to their urine or droppings. It does not spread from person to person.
* HPS first presents with flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever and muscle aches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
* Cases of HPS have been reported in more than 30 different U.S. states, and it is one of the CDC's 50 "notifiable" diseases, meaning that new cases must be reported to authorities, according to Hantavirus.net.
* The CDC has published a brochure with facts about the hantavirus family of viruses and how to prevent being exposed to them.
* Officials from the California Department of Public Health told the media on Friday that the two people who contracted the virus at Yosemite National Park did not arrive or camp together, but did both stay in the park's Curry Village Campground, according to an ABC News report.
* The National Institutes of Health state that incidences of exposure to HPS while camping or hiking or rare. Most of the 600 cases of the disease that have been reported since the virus was first discovered in 1993 have come through exposure in the person's own home.
* The California man that died in late July from HPS contracted at Yosemite was the first person to die after contracting the disease at the park. The park has had only two other confirmed cases of exposure, one in 2000 and another in 2010, according to the Associated Press.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.