Hantavirus causes health scare at Yosemite

Yosemite National Park in the USA has received a large number of cancellations after tourists were discouraged from visiting by the prospects of contacting the hantavirus.

The national park’s visitor numbers are suffering after news spread that some tourists staying in the national park’s cabins contacted the rare and sometimes deadly hantavirus. It was reported that two visitors staying in cabins in the Boystown section of Curry Village, had been infected. On Thursday, the number of infections was reported to be six, triggering the consternation among potential visitors. It is believed that deer mice transmit the virus, and humans come into contact with it if they encounter fresh mouse droppings, saliva or urine. Dust containing the virus can also transmit the disease.

Yosemite is a favourite of travellers wishing to holiday in cabins in natural settings. The cabins are set in woodland, providing visitors with the chance to interact with nature.

A spokeswoman for the Delaware North Cos. Parks & Resorts, a firm that operates cabins and holidays in Yosemite National Park, said that a ‘heavy’ number of customers had abandoned their holiday plans in the park. The exact number of cancellations is not known. On the other hand, customers who wish to stay in the resort, but have not made prior reservations, can easily find accommodation. As a safety precaution, those who have booked to stay in the Curry Village’s ‘signature tent cabins’ are now being offered other cabins and lodgings.

Park officials said that the park is safe to visit, and that people who have vacation plans there need not cancel them.

The national park’s signature cabins are constructed from a white canvas outer layer and a thin insulation sheet over a rock interior. The park has taken 91 of these cabins out of service and they are in the process of being made mouse-proof. It is not clear when these cabins will be back in service.

The symptoms of the disease become apparent six weeks after contact, and early diagnosis and care is necessary to save patients.