This week, officials from Yosemite National Park reported that a ninth person had contracted the hantavirus after staying in the park. Over 260,000 park visitors have now been notified to watch for and report the onset of hantavirus symptoms.
Hantavirus is carried in the urine and feces of deer mice and spreads when humans inhale it after it mixes with dust. The virus is not known to spread from person to person, but it can incubate for up to six weeks after initial exposure.
Early symptoms include flu-like issues such as headache, fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath, and coughing. It escalates into hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and kills more than one third of those infected. Blood tests early on to detect the virus, followed by medical care, can increase the chances of survival.
The hantavirus outbreak affirms the value of community health surveillance systems, such as HMS’ EpiCenter and EpiStart, that constantly monitor reports of illness and provide real-time outbreak alert notifications to public health professionals.
Our goal is to provide public health with the tools needed to ensure the health of the communities they serve—and to provide an early detection system that helps to prevent the spread of disease.