Yosemite National Park has issued an official warning to those who have visited the frequent family vacation spot since June. Visitors, espescially those who stayed in the “Curry Village” cabins, are at risk for hantavirus, a life-threatening disease that’s spread through rodents. So far, two people have died of hantavirus and there’s been one other confirmed case out of Yosemite. So with this mildly terrifying threat out there, we at Blisstree wanted to put together some facts so that vacationers can keep healthy and keep the fear at bay.
Here’s what you need to know about this serious disease, how to keep yourself safe and when to head to the doctor.
- You never actually have to see a rodent. I think when people hear of a disease that’s spread through mice and rats, they assume that you have to be bitten by one or something. Not the case here. Coming in to contact with an infected rodent’s urine or dropping can do the trick. Even the dust from a rodent den can infect a human. That’s partially why national parks, with their camping and rustic camping, are seen as common places to contract hantavirus. Setting up your sleeping bag on the ground could put you in contact with the virus.
- It starts out like the flu. The early systems of hantavirus look a lot like common influenza. There’s fever, chills, and sore muscles. Anyone experiencing these early symptoms who has visited Yosemite this summer should seek immediate medical attention.
- It progresses quickly. The hantavirus does not hang out dormant and it does not take its time. Within days of the initial symptoms, the disease can get into the lungs. It can create a dry cough, nausea, and a shortness of breath. At this point it is extremely critical for patients to get to the hospital.
- Hantavirus cannot be spread between humans. If one family member gets the virus, they cannot spread it to others. The disease does not travel from human-to-human. It can only be contracted by coming in to contact with the bodily fluid of an infected rodent.
- There’s little treatment available. One of the reasons that hantavirus is so deadly is that there’s little doctors can do to treat the disease, especially once it’s in the lungs. Patients can be given oxygen and a medicine to help with kidney failure, which is also a concern for those with hantavirus. If the lungs have been infected, there’s less than 50% chance of survival.
- Preventative measures. When staying in a cabin, open the windows and doors, then leave for about 30 minutes to let the place air out. Get generous with the anti-bacterial spray. Always use a ground cover or pad when sleeping in the open. And of course, use traps and other anti-pest measures to keep rodents out of cabins, sheds and garages.