Third Death in Yosemite Hantavirus Outbreak

Officials in West Virginia confirmed that a local resident died after contracting the hantavirus at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park, bringing the number of confirmed cases of infection at eight, with a total of three deaths.

Gediman said the victim stayed in one of 91 “signature tent cabins” in Curry Village in mid-June. Park officials have attributed seven of the eight cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome — three of which have been fatal — to the insulated signature tent cabins and warned that anyone who stayed there between June 10 and Aug. 24 was at risk.

But the other newly reported infection was linked to camps along the High Sierra Loop, a route in the park’s high country frequented by backpackers. Gediman said a Northern California man spent time in July at four spots along the loop: the Merced Lake, Sunrise and Vogelsang camps and the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.

The man became sick after his visit but recovered on his own, Gediman said. He contacted his doctor after he heard about the outbreak; it was later confirmed that he had contracted the disease.

“This one’s an outlier,” Gediman said.

Now Yosemite officials are sending emails and letters to about 6,000 people who stayed in the High Sierra Camps and the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge this summer, Gediman said. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that as many as 10,000 people stayed in the signature tent cabins between June 10 and Aug. 24.

Officials “thought very seriously” about closing the High Sierra Camps early — Sept. 17 is the last day they are available — but decided to keep them open after consulting with public health authorities, Gediman said.

The 91 signature tent cabins in Curry Village were cleared last week as crews cleaned and retrofitted them to fill gaps that allowed mice inside the insulated walls. They remain closed indefinitely. LA Times, 7 Sep 2012.

The CDC sent letters to more than 3,000 letters to campers who had reserved tent cabins in Curry Village between June 10 and Aug. 24. Over 10,000 people are estimated to be at risk for the virus.