Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are expected to arrive in Yosemite Tuesday to join the investigation into the unprecedented hantavirus outbreak that has killed two park visitors and sickened four others.
The scientists will team up with officials from the California Department of Public Health and National Park Service scientists who have been investigating the outbreak.
Dr. Danielle Buttke is a veterinary epidemiologist with the National Park Service Office of Public Health who has been at Yosemite leading portions the hantavirus investigation.
Until the Yosemite outbreak, she says, scientists have seen only isolated cases of humans contracting Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. The rare virus is believed to be carried mostly by deer mice and spread to humans through airborne particles of mouse feces and urine found in unventilated spaces.
"In this particular incident, we believe there are environmental conditions as well as specific conditions in the mouse population that may have influenced there being a cluster of cases," she told KPCC at Yosemite over Labor Day weekend.
Buttke says investigators believe there are at least two main contributors to the Yosemite hantavirus outbreak: The particular design of the infected "signature" tent cabins in the Boystown area of Curry Village, which have less airflow than others at the park, and a larger than usual deer mouse population around those cabins.
Since last week, National Park Service scientists along with state, national and European health officials have been seeking out everyone who stayed in Yosemite’s Curry Park tent cabins from June 10th to August 24th.
"We are calling people, we are emailing them, we are asking everyone if they’ve had any symptoms and if they have and even if they’ve recovered, we’re asking them to get tested so we can understand better how many people were exposed and how many people may have been affected."
People infected with the virus typically suffer flu-like symptoms that include fever, muscle pains and nausea. In the most serious cases, it can lead to severe difficulty with breathing and death.