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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

Hantavirus Deaths in Yosemite: More Mice May Be to Blame

•, Susan E. Matthews
 The virus kills 38 percent of infected people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, filling its victims' lungs with fluid and essentially drowning them.
The disease is rare — there have only been around 600 reported cases in history, said Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
The virus cannot be spread from person to person, and people generally become infected by being close to contaminated rodent droppings or urine and inhaling airborne particles.

In order for a person to become infected, Hirsch said, "the virus has to be present enough in the rodents, the rodents have to come into contact with humans, and humans have to inhale it." These specific conditions may explain why there are so few cases, he said.

The Yosemite cases may be partly the result of good weather that increased nut production, and led to increased mice populations, Hirsch said. Besides the two deaths, at least one other person was sickened by the disease and officials said other cases could emerge.

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