World Bulletin / News Desk
Public health officials have begun examining blood samples and questionnaire results from dozens of Yosemite National Park workers who volunteered for a study designed to shed light on an unprecedented outbreak of deadly hantavirus.
This week's screening, which involved 96 workers, is the latest effort by officials to uncover clues about the rare, mouse-borne lung disease that has infected at least nine park visitors and killed three since June.
"This is a unique opportunity to learn more about potential exposure to hantavirus from the people who lived and worked in close proximity to this cluster of cases," park spokesman John Quinley said Thursday.
One aim is to help researchers design a study of the California park's more than 2,500 workers in a search for clues about how the virus infects people and how to prevent it.
Among the lingering questions over the outbreak is why hantavirus infected park visitors while sparing employees.
All but one of the nine infected visitors stayed in Curry Village in double-walled, insulated tent cabins later found to be infested with deer mice. The tiny, white-bellied mice carry the airborne virus in their droppings, urine and saliva.
The park closed the infested tent cabins at the end of August, after learning of two of the hantavirus deaths.
This week's screening will examine park workers' blood for antibodies signaling exposure to the hantavirus. Employees also answered questions about where they live, their contact with mice, their job duties and their hantavirus training, Quinley said.
"We've had a lot of employees go through hantavirus training," he said. "We're interested in knowing if the training works."
The voluntary study is part of a broader scientific effort that will include the first whole-genome sequencing for the hantavirus strain t h at struck Yosemite over the summer. It marked the biggest cluster of cases since the disease was first identified in the United States in 1993.
At that time, when hantavirus pulmonary syndrome infected healthy young adults in the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, Navajo elders linked the outbreak to an abundance of pine nuts and an explosion of mice coming out for the feast.
Since then, more than 600 Americans have been diagnosed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The incurable disease kills more than a third of those infected.
To date, humans have never been known to transmit the virus. People can inhale the hantavirus when mice droppings mix with dust, especially in confined, poorly ventilated spaces.
Ebola has been "a mega crisis and it overwhelmed the capacity of WHO".
Pauline Cafferkey was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital after falling ill on her return from Sierra Leone, where she had been working for the charity Save the Children
"Both for malaria and AIDS we're seeing that the tools that will let us do 95 to 100 percent reduction, those tools will be invented during this 15-year period", said Gates.
A five-year-old boy died from the virus in the southern Assiut province
"The probability of global catastrophe is very high," says advocacy group
Nigeria H5N1 bird flu now in 7 states, suspected in 140,000 birds
Using video feedback-based therapy to help parents understand and respond to their baby's early communication style might help modify emerging autism symptoms
The unprecedented outbreak has so far killed more than 8,400 people, overwhelmingly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Obama launched a new precision medicine initiative to bring closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes
Britain has one of the highest persistent tuberculosis (TB) rates in western Europe
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and biggest economy, was the continent's first country to detect bird flu in 2006
The data showed that the 10 warmest years since records began in the 19th century had occurred since 1997
Nearly 85 percent of births are delivered by C-section in Brazil's private hospitals
Sea level rise is gnawing away at shores from Miami to Shanghai. In cities such as Jakarta, the rise is aggravated by big local subsidence.
The migration has occurred during the last one to three generations of the predators, or between 15 and 45 years