A West Virginian is the third person to die so far from a rodent-borne illness linked to some tent cabins at Yosemite National Park that has now stricken eight people in all, health officials said Thursday.
Five people are ill from the outbreak reported last week by park officials, who said that up to 10,000 guests could have been exposed to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome from sleeping in the cabins since June 10.
Alerts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent to public-health agencies, doctors and hospitals have turned up other suspected cases that have not yet been confirmed. This week, the European CDC and the World Health Organization issued global alerts for all travelers to avoid exposure to rodents.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said the West Virginia victim had visited the park since June but declined to give more details, citing the family's wish to grieve in private.
The other deaths occurred in California and Pennsylvania. Those who were sickened also were from California, and the National Park Service said Wednesday they were either improving or recovering.
Seven of the cases involved guests at the insulated "signature" cabins in the park's historic Curry Village section. The California Department of Public Health said the other case involved someone who stayed in several High Sierra Camps in a different area of Yosemite in July.
Yosemite officials said the cabins have been closed and the park is reaching out to guests who have stayed in the cabins.
Gupta declined to elaborate on whether anyone was traveling with the Kanawha County victim, although he said his department knew of no other cases.
"The time has lapsed in a way that it should not be a concern," Gupta said.
Health officials say the disease isn't spread from person to person. There is no cure for the virus, which can affect people of any age. The disease is carried in the feces, urine and saliva of deer mice and other rodents and carried on airborne particles and dust.
People can be infected by inhaling the virus or by handling infected rodents. Infected people usually have flulike symptoms, including fever, shortness of breath, chills and aches. The illness can take six weeks to incubate before rapid acute respiratory and organ failure.
General Manager - Staff Entomologist