Gediman said the park received more than 5,000 calls since opening an emergency phone line Tuesday.
Some have questioned Yosemite’s preparedness — records show the California Department of Public Health warned the park about the potential for hantavirus in reports dating back five years. In a 2007-10 summary on vector-borne diseases in California’s national parks, the agency said deer mice infected with the virus had been found at “several locations in the park.”
It also cited a 2010 case of hantavirus traced to Tuolumne Meadows — only the second confirmed case of the virus linked to Yosemite before this summer.
The report recommended enhanced inspections, trapping, additional staff training, and posting of information about hantavirus and other similarly transmitted diseases at staff lodging and visitor centers.
“Campgrounds and other areas that host large numbers of visitors should be posted with information about potential plague risk and prevention measures,” the report said. “Rodent activity within campsites should be discouraged.”
The health agency also mentioned the risk for hantavirus at Yosemite in two annual reports, in 2007 and 2010. Those summaries advised Yosemite to better educate employees and visitors about hantavirus risk and to take steps to reduce the chance of contracting the disease by fixing “rodent harborage” opportunities.
The park followed those recommendations, Gediman said, and updated its directive about staff hantavirus training and visitor protocol in April. He said that before the outbreak, information about hantavirus was available with other park literature when guests checked into camping areas. After the first cases, he said, pamphlets were distributed to every vehicle upon entering the park.
Although officials plan to review their handling of this outbreak after public health authorities complete their investigation, Gediman said they “feel really good” about their preparedness and outreach to visitors.
“We don’t feel that, if we had to do it again, we would do anything differently,” he said.
— Los Angeles Times