The Center for Disease Control is warning of an unprecedented virus outbreak in California, with two confirmed deaths so far and two more ongoing cases. The virus' ground zero seems to be in Yosemite Park:
The National Park Service (NPS) announced that there were 3 confirmed cases and 1 probable case of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in visitors who stayed at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park since June of this year. Public health officials believe that these visitors may have been exposed to Hantavirus while staying at the Signature Tent Cabins in Curry Village. Two people have died.
The hantavirus pulmonary syndrome—formerly Korean hemorrahgic fever—is a rare but often fatal disease, so the CDC is "advising [these people] to seek immediate medical attention if they exhibit symptoms of HPS." It has an incubation time of two to four weeks in humans before these bone chilling symptoms are manifested in various phases.
First, the symptoms seem like influenza mixed with gastrointestinal problems: "fever, chills, sweaty palms, diarrhea, malaise, headaches, nausea, abdominal and back pain, respiratory problems such as the ones." These start "three to seven days and arise about two to three weeks after exposure."
After that it goes to hell, with a phase that includes tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate) and tachypnea (abnormally rapid breathing). Then patients "will develop difficulty breathing, coughing and shortness of breath." At this point, the patient could enter into the "cardiopulmonary phase, where cardiovascular shock can occur, and hospitalization of the patient is required."
The CDC and the California Department of Public Health are now working with the National Park Service to asses the situation and make sure that the outbreak is contained. Right now, the authorities are contacting people who stayed in these tents from mid-June through the end of August.
About 1,700 people may have been exposed to the virus during that period. Speaking to the LA Times, Yosemite park ranger Jana McCabe says the outbreak "unprecedented."
We take this extremely seriously. We want to know what's going on.
While there have been other cases of the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the United States since 1993, according to the CDC's Dr. Barbara Knust, it's "very rare" to find repeated cases of the virus in the same place, which is why they are taking this so seriously.
The virus may have spread to other countries, as many of the 1,700 people who stayed at the cabins in the Curry Village have since returned to their places of origin. While the disease can not be spread from human-to-human contact, the people who have been potentially exposed should get themselves checked out immediately. And anyone else should do their best to avoid rats—the carriers—at all cost.
Above: tents at Yosemite Park's Curry Village.