Reader Participation Day: Will The Hantavirus Outbreak Affect Your Plans To Visit Yosemite National Park ?

Deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) are implicated as carriers of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in Yosemite and other parts of the U.S. Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Much of the recent news from Yosemite National Park hasn't focused on the area's spectacular scenery, but rather on an outbreak of Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Thus far, eight people who spent at least one night in the park this summer have been stricken, and three have died. Has this situation caused you to reconsider plans to visit Yosemite?

The confirmed cases include six individuals from California, one from Pennsylvania, and one from West Virginia.

Seven of the eight cases of HPS have been linked to overnight stays since June 10 in the "Signature Tent Cabins" in Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. Those cabins have been closed.


The other individual who became ill stayed in multiple High Sierra Camps in Yosemite in July. Those camps are located in a different area of the park than Curry Village, and that stay is considered the most likely source of that person's infection.

HPS is caused by a virus carried by rodents; when fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials are stirred up, tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air, where they may be inhaled by humans. There's no evidence the illness is transmitted from one human to another. The disease is considered "rare but serious," and the symptoms appear one to six weeks after exposure

Since HPS was first identified in 1993 in the Southwestern U.S., there have been approximately 602 cases nationally; 60 cases involved California residents. Deer mice (along with cotton rats and rice rats in the southeastern states and the white-footed mouse in the Northeast) carry the virus. Nationwide, approximately 12 percent of deer mice are believed to carry hantavirus, and one of more of the carrier species are found in all parts of the country.

Has the recent outbreak of HPS caused you to reconsider plans to visit Yosemite—or other parks—in either the immediate future or in the long term?

Since all of the recent cases involved overnight stays in either the Curry Camp tent cabins or the High Sierra Camps, would you be less likely to either camp or use "rustic" vs. more modern accommodations during a park visit?

Comments

My wife and I are planning a trip to Yosemite next June. We have reservations for the Yosemite Lodge. We are reading all of the reports and updates concerning this outbreak. We do not have to make our plane reservations until around December and what is being reported will influence our decision to go.

Absolutely not. The nexus of the issue - the Signature Tent cabins - have been closed. 7 of the 8 cases were linked to them. The Canvas Tent Cabins are where I stay. Just don't sweep up the floor and get particles airborne that you can breathe in. They are catching deer mice by the hundreds and the CDC and CA Public Health are doing a fine job isolating the virus.

To avoid a real risk, dodge cars enroute.

There are many risks when one heads into nature, but probably fewer than when one is in what passes for civilization. When I go to Yosemite, I spend very little time in the Valley, and prefer to spend my time in the high country wilderness. I am probably more at risk from a serious fall leading to an injury when I am alone and miles from a trailhead than I am from contracting HPS. In either case, I accept the risk in exchange for the experience.

I agree with the above comments about risks except that most risks such as falls or drownings can be avoided by the traveler by using common sense. The people who died were just breathing, sleeping in tent cabins that are not kept clean. Curry Village charges well over $100 per night and while mice are endemic to the Sierra, housekeeping at Curry is lax. Of course mice like it there. People get take out pizza and eat in their tents dropping mouse food, i.e. crumbs. Now the mice are in the cabins and frolicing on the blankets which are seldom washed.

I stayed in the High Sierra camps this summer. I love them. But I never heard of hanta virus being present in Yosemite in past years. And I go almost every year. The Park Service never got this information out. I now know that people have contracted hanta virus in Tuolumne Meadows previously.

Delaware North needs to (1) ban eating in the tent cabins and (2) wash or air in bright sunlight the blankets and comforters to kill any virus there. They need to make sure the cabins are properly ventilated. I may bring my own pillow and sleeping bag in the future.

Unlike the other comments, I would not give Delaware North a complete pass on these deaths.

Everyone who travels solo in remote areas, including areas that are deceptively close to metropolises but have no cell phone reception, should carry a personal locator beacon. After a couple of scary experiences, one bordering on life-threatening at 11,000 feet, I no longer go anywhere outside cell phone reception without my ACR Electronics Aqualink, if I'm by myself.

imtnbke: Huh? Product placement, or misplaced comment?;-)