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Hantavirus Claims First-Ever Fatality In Yosemite National Park

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LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Officials from Yosemite National Park say a man is dead and a woman is recovering after contracting a rare rodent-borne disease, hantavirus, in a popular lodging area.

Park officials announced Thursday that tests confirmed the man died from hantavirus in late July. Both victims had been staying in tent cabins at the Curry Village Campground in the park in June.

Park officials say hantavirus has been detected in deer mice around the campground.

Sanjeev Seth, an Infectious Disease and Emergency specialist with St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the virus takes an average of two to three weeks to incubate and is fatal in about 30 percent of the cases.

“A patient would really present with fever, chills body aches, and a lot of times people just think, ‘Well, it must be the flu’,” said Seth. “If it’s gonna get worse, it’s gonna progress about four to ten days later and, depending on how severe it is, one can get really bad lung infection.”

The victims most likely came into contact with the virus by inhaling it from mouse urine or droppings.

The park concessionaire has been working to disinfect cabins since the discovery, and officials have been trapping and testing mice.

Officials say the man is the first person to die from hantavirus contracted in Yosemite, though there were outbreaks in 2000 and 2010.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people exposed to the hantavirus from a rodent can develop hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches – especially in the thighs, hips, back – and progress in four to 10 days to coughing, shortness of breath and a feeling described as a tight band wrapped around the chest with a pillow over the face, as the lungs fill with fluid.

According to the CDC, there are four North American rodents that carry hantavirus: the deer mouse, cotton rat, rice rat, and white-footed mouse.

Both the deer mouse and the cotton rat usually live in rural areas, but can also be found in cities when conditions are right, such as easy availability of food, water and shelter, the CDC said.

There’s no specific treatment for hantavirus but people who catch it early and receive medical care in an ICU may fare better.

The agency recommends people seal up holes inside and outside the home to keep rodents out, set up mouse traps to reduce the population and take safety precautions when cleaning up rodent-infested areas.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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