By Bay City News Service
A man who died after a trip to Yosemite National Park, where it is believed he contracted a rare disease spread by rodents, was an Alameda County resident and died there after returning from his trip, an Alameda County Health Department spokeswoman said today.
The man and a woman, who also stayed at Curry Village in the national park in mid-June, both were exposed to mice droppings or urine that contained hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a virus that was first identified in 1993 and has since been found in only 60 cases in California, health officials said.
The woman, a Southern California resident, is recovering while the man passed away at the end of July.
The California Department of Public Health did not connect his death to his stay in Yosemite until earlier this week, Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.
The man's identity and city of residence are being withheld as state, county and park officials investigate the death, Alameda County Health Department spokeswoman Sherri Willis said.
The man and woman did not know each other, but stayed in close proximity in tent-style cabins during overlapping visits to the national park, Cobb said.
Because the man died in Alameda County, presumably from the communicable disease picked up from rodents, the county health department's environmental health program is trapping and testing rodents near where the man lived, Willis said.
The hantavirus cannot be spread via human-to-human contact, she said.
Willis said Yosemite health officials are also testing rodents in lodging areas at the park, and together the two agencies are doing their investigation in concert with the California Department of Public Health.
Yosemite National Park health officials are increasing inspections and cleaning rooms and cabins and maintaining good housekeeping to discourage rodent infestations, park officials said.
Curry Village, which is managed by Delaware North Companies, is comprised of cabins, including the canvas tent-style structures the man and woman stayed in, and a larger lodge.
"We are well aware of the possibility of hantavirus," Delaware North spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro said. "Hantavirus isn't new for us."
Exposure to the urine, dropping or saliva of the infected wild mice — often deer mice — prompts the illness, which starts one to six weeks later with fever, headache, muscle ache and, in extreme cases, difficulty breathing and, eventually, death.
Although there is a strong indicator that the man was exposed to the disease while in Yosemite, health officials must conduct a thorough investigation of what led to the death.
"When there is a communicable disease," Willis said, "We try to understand the pattern, what the activities were pre, during and post the exposure."