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Hantavirus, West Nile Outbreaks Put U.S. Travelers at Risk

The Hantavirus outbreak in Yosemite and news of West Nile in almost every state has us concerned. Since we regularly write about many of the affected destinations, we wanted to bring you a quick overview of these two infectious diseases, along with suggestions for prevention. Travel safe and be well!

Hantavirus

Yosemite National Park's Curry Village is the center of a Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) outbreak. As of September 8, the National Parks Service announced eight confirmed cases, including three deaths, in visitors staying in the tent cabins since June. There's some speculation that there may be Hantavirus activity at the High Sierra Camps as well.

Hantavirus Carrier: Deer mice. Elsewhere in the U.S., Hantavirus is caused by white-footed mice and cotton rats. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the source of transmission is usually rodent droppings, urine, or nesting material.

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Symptoms: Symptoms are flu-like and include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, chills, abdominal problems, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Prevention: Ways of reducing exposure to Hantavirus include keeping food in tightly sealed containers, not stirring up dust, minimizing storage of personal items on floors, and avoiding sleeping on bare ground (camping). The National Park Service says that anyone noticing rodent droppings should contact staff immediately.

West Nile Virus

The vast majority of people infected with West Nile Virus show no symptoms, but it can be fatal for people older than 50 and those with weakened immune systems. The CDC is calling this one of the worst outbreaks ever in the U.S., with West Nile activity in almost every state. The highest concentrations of infection are in Texas, California, and the Midwest.

West Nile Carrier: Mosquitoes

Symptoms: Most people infected with West Nile show no symptoms. Twenty percent of those infected will have mild symptoms including fever, headache, or body ache. One in every 150 people infected will develop a severe case, with symptoms including headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, and paralysis.

Prevention: Prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent that contains DEET, picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Dress in long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you're outside, stay indoors at dusk at dawn (the time when infected mosquitoes are most active), and drain any standing water.

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