FRESNO (AP) — More than 90 cabins in Yosemite National Park are closed indefinitely after the site was found to be at the center of a mouse-borne virus that has been blamed for the deaths of two people, officials said Thursday.
Park officials said the double-walled design of the 91 cabins that were closed Tuesday made it easy for mice to nest between the walls. The disease is carried in the feces, urine and saliva of deer mice and other rodents.
Over the past three weeks, two people have died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome after staying in one of the socalled “Signature” cabins at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. Another person is confirmed ill and one more likely has the virus that has killed 36 percent of the people it infects.
Mike Gauthier, Yosemite chief of staff, said the design of the luxury cabins that are new to the park allowed for rodent infestation.
“We just weren’t aware that design would lead to it,” he said.
The illness begins as flulike symptoms but can quickly affect the lungs. It can take up to six weeks to incubate. All four people who fell ill stayed in the tent cabins in June, and warnings have gone out to visitors who stayed in Curry Village in June, July or August.
The hantavirus outbreak occurred despite efforts by park officials to step up protection efforts last April. A 2010 report from the California Department of Public Health warned park officials that rodent inspection efforts should be increased after a visitor to the Tuolumne Meadows area of the park fell ill.
The new hantavirus policy, enacted April 25, was designed to provide a safe place, “free from recognized hazards that may cause serious physical harm or death.”
It came after the state report revealed that 18 percent of mice trapped for testing at various locations around the park were positive for hantavirus. The report said park officials should take steps to prevent mice from entering areas where people sleep.