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Hantavirus Letter from Elizabeth Griego

Sep 17, 2012

Dear Pacific Colleagues,

As many of you may know from various news reports, there have been nine confirmed cases of Hantavirus or Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome (HCPS) infection in those who have spent one or more nights in Yosemite National Park since June of this year. Three of these cases have been fatal; the other six individuals have recovered. Eight of the cases occurred in visitors who stayed in the 900-series cabins at Curry Village in Yosemite.

I want to make sure that you are aware of two things:

(1) the Hantavirus is not restricted just to the Yosemite Valley and National Park, but can be found in wild deer mouse populations throughout the Sierra Nevada range and in California. The virus is spread to humans through contact with deer mouse feces, urine, and saliva and is more prevalent than usual this year when arid conditions are driving deer mice more out in the open. We want to encourage you to take precautions to minimize exposure to the Hantavirus for yourself and your companions if you are planning a visit to Yosemite National Park, any areas in the Sierra Nevada, or any areas in California that may have wild deer mouse populations. Precautions primarily consist of avoiding all contact with deer mice and their droppings.

(2) As you may know, we took 100 entering students to Yosemite for the M.O.V.E. program August 24 and 25. Before our visit we checked both with Yosemite National Park and the Centers for Disease Control because we knew of three cases of infection. We were assured that the risk of Hantavirus infection was extremely low and were told that the cabins where the infected visitors stayed were in a different section of Curry Village. It is important to note that those cabins were of different construction than the tent cabins where the Pacificans stayed. The deer mice have been found to be nesting in the double-walled upgraded cabins, where we did not stay.

When we returned from the M.O.V.E. trip and learned about the deaths and additional cases of Hantavirus infection, we wrote to every student and parent to let them know of the potential exposure, however unlikely it might be to contract Hantavirus, and to urge them to notify health services or their doctor immediately if the student exhibited any flu-like symptoms, or aches and pains. Pacific Health Services has a list of all students who went on the Yosemite M.O.V.E. trip.

Even though we have had no reports of Hantavirus among those who went on the trip, and the chance is low that a case will surface, it's a good idea to be vigilant. The time frame for symptoms to appear would be during the next month. We would ask that you help us by being on the lookout for students with flu-like symptoms and urge them to visit Pacific Health Services or their physician as soon as possible. The earlier the detection, the better the possibility for effective treatment.

Additional information about how to avoid exposure to the Hantavirus may be found on the webpages following, including FAQs, prevention, incidences, location and other information.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or Dr. Beth McManis, Director of Pacific Health Services, at 946.2315.

Elizabeth Griego, PhD
Vice President for Student Life