This summer, we’ve seen outbreaks of several unusual infections–first, West Nile virus and a new swine flu variant–and now, an outbreak of hantavirus infection at Yosemite National Park, a destination for more than 4 million tourists each year. This particular outbreak has affected only a very few people who were camping at the signature tent cabins in Curry Village at Yosemite, and there’s been at least one death reported. However, there’s no need to panic. Here are a few simple facts to set your mind at ease.
First and foremost, there has never been a documented case of hantavirus resulting from person-to-person spread in the United States. The disease can only be contracted through contact with dust contaminated by the droppings, saliva, or urine of infected rodents; typically, a person will touch something that has been contaminated and then touch his or her mouth or nose. Thus, if your friend has recently been to Yosemite and been unfortunate enough to become infected, it poses no danger to you whatsoever.
Even if you’ve been to Yosemite, your chances of getting the infection are extremely small. However, the incubation period for the virus is between one and six weeks, so, to be prudent, if you develop flu-like symptoms within six weeks of visiting the park, contact your health care provider. He or she will be able to guide you through a prompt and proper evaluation.
But, even though you should seek medical attention in this circumstance, the overwhelming likelihood is that your flu-like symptoms represent a routine and benign infection and not hantavirus infection. If you find yourself in this situation, take the prudent steps to get checked out, but do so armed with knowledge and perspective. Learn more about hantavirus on the CDC website.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
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