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'Haunta'virus Spooks Visitors at Yosemite National Park

Update Date: Aug 29, 2012 10:11 AM EDT
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Yosemite National Park gave visitors the spooks as word of a Hantavirus-riddled rodent infestation broke out along the tent cabins visitors use to camp out on grounds.

With two campers already dead from the disease, park officials sent letters to 1,700 visitors who stayed in some of the on-premise residences this summer, warning them they may have contracted the virus and urging them to get checked-out, Associated Press reports.

A popular tourist attraction and rustic summer getaway, attracting nearly 4 million visitors each year, Yosemite officials refuse to close its gates because of the breakout, opting instead to hand out informational brochures at the park's entrance, warning new comers to avoid mice and, particularly, mouse droppings.

However, officials remind the public that Yosemite is a wild life park, not a resort:

"We're very concerned about visitors and employees," park spokesman Scott Gediman told AP. "But we feel we are taking proactive steps in both cleaning the affected areas and in public education. But it's absolutely impossible to eliminate all risk."

Though the virus is not contagious, it can remain dormant up to six weeks without side effects before the infected begin to experience flu-like symptoms. While only 30 percent of all cases are fatal, there is no known treatment for the disease.

Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups such as thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal.

There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.

Government documents report that one third of the 587 known cases of Hantavirus infections proved deadly.

AP reveals that because rodents are native to the park a large team of epidemiologists will be needed to trap them for testing.

"This is a serious public health issue and we want to be transparent, but at the same time we don't want people to alter their plans, because we are taking the necessary precautions," Gediman said. 

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