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U.S. Yosemite park officials warn 1,700 visitors of rare rodent-borne disease infection risk

(Xinhua)

11:10, August 29, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Officials with Yosemite National Park in the U.S. state of California on Tuesday sent email alerts to 1,700 visitors, saying they might have been exposed to a rare rodent-borne disease blamed for the deaths of two people who stayed at the park.

All of the visitors had stayed in Yosemite National Park's Curry Village, a lodging area of tents and cabins at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley, said the Yosemite park officials, who warned those who stayed there from mid-June through the end of August to be beware of symptoms of hantavirus, which includes fever, aches, dizziness and chills. The officials advised the at- risk visitors to seek medical treatment if they have shown symptoms of hantavirus infection.

Hantavirus is a rare viral infection carried by mice and passed to humans by the rodents' feces, saliva and urine. After two to seven days of early symptoms, patients may develop severe difficulty of breathing and could die. There is no cure or known antiviral treatment for the infection.

According to the Yosemite park officials, there were three confirmed cases of hantavirus and a fourth suspected of the disease appeared on Monday. All of the four visitors stayed in Curry Village over a one-week period in mid-June. Two of them have died while the other two were expected to survive. Their identities were not disclosed.

There have been about 600 documented cases in the U.S. since hantavirus was identified in 1993. About a third of them have died.

Yosemite officials said contractors are currently making improvements to cabins in the Curry Village, including replacing the insulation and checking carefully for areas where mice could get into the structures.

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