(RxWiki News) Going on a camping trip is usually associated with some pretty routine injuries - a few mosquito bites and maybe a scraped knee. But most people would not expect to return home with a serious rodent-borne illness.
That has been the experience of campers who have contracted a virus known as hantavirus.
Because of concerns and recent cases, US National Parks like Yosemite are stepping up rodent control in an attempt to curb the disease.
"Read about any risks at your potential campsite."
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is the name of the disease that results from contraction of hantavirus. The US National Park Service (NPS) reported that infections can occur through contact with urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents, including through the inhalation of dust containing infected material.
Symptoms may start with fever, nausea and muscle aches, then quickly develop into coughing and major breathing problems.
According to the Los Angeles Times, nine people became ill with HPS last year after staying at Curry Village, a campground in Yosemite National Park in California. One additional patient became ill at another Yosemite campground, and three of the patients eventually died.
“To try to keep that from happening again, workers have been plugging crannies in buildings, hanging screens on staff and guest lodgings, and reinforcing ‘bear boxes,’ all to keep the little critters from nesting anywhere near people,” the LA Times reported.
According to the LA Times, Mark Gallagher, an environmental manager for Delaware North, a company that operates lodging facilities within Yosemite, noted the difficulties in protecting people against these tiny intruders.
"Keeping a bear out is easy — your enclosure just has to be strong. With a mouse, you really have to pay attention to detail," said Gallagher.
The NPS recommended a variety of ways for visitors to protect themselves against hantavirus, including avoiding contact with live or dead rodents, avoiding disturbing their burrows or nests, storing food in tightly sealed containers and not stirring up dust.
However, the NPS reminded park visitors that they are entering a natural environment with wild animals.
“All visitors should be aware of safety information related to visiting Yosemite, ranging from river safety to bear awareness and hantavirus awareness,” the NPS said.
The NPS also reported that an estimated 12 percent of deer mice in the US carry hantavirus. The virus has caused 602 known infections across the nation since it was identified in 1993 (60 of which occurred in the state of California).