Q:

How Can I Prevent Hantavirus?

As an avid hiker, I often stay in huts. I’m kind of freaked out about the recent outbreak of the hantavirus at Yosemite. How much should I really worry, and what can I do to avoid it?

Sep 20, 2012
Outside
Outside Magazine

Hantavirus can be dangerous, but it's not common.    Photo:CreativeNature.nl/Shutterstock

A:

The eight confirmed illnesses and three deaths from hantavirus among guests at Yosemite's Camp Curry have rightfully stirred up concern in the hiking community. Still, the prevalence of this often-deadly disease carried in rodent feces and urine needs to be put into perspective. On average, fewer than 30 cases of hantavirus are reported each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By comparison, 400 people are struck by lightning in the country annually, and 8,000 people get bitten by venomous snakes. You should be vigilant but not overly concerned about hantavirus, especially if you take the following precautions in the backcountry.

If your cabin is mouse-infested, don’t stay in it.
Mouse nests or feces scattered throughout the cabin should be a giant red light. Your best bet in the backcountry is always to stay in your own tent.

Don’t camp near a woodpile or anywhere else where rodents may be living
The more distance you put between yourself and where rodents congregate, the better.

Don’t sweep your cabin or lean-to.
A broom just stirs dust into the air. You’re better off wet mopping—or, if it’s not your cabin, doing nothing.

Store your food and trash in rodent-proof containers.
There’s no need to invite mice to dinner. If possible, hang your food and trash containers as well.

Filter your water before drinking it.
No matter how much you trust your water source in the backcountry, you’re better off being safe by using a filter.

For more pointers, go to the National Park Service's site.

Filed To: Adventure Adviser

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