World Bulletin / News Desk
Public health officials plan to interview and collect blood samples from up to 2,500 Yosemite National Park workers as they hunt for clues in the biggest outbreak of the deadly hantavirus in nearly two decades, a state health official said on Monday.
The voluntary employee screening, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, is the most recent effort to shed light on the rare, mouse-borne lung disease, which infected nine park visitors and killed three last summer.
"This is a highly unusual situation," Barbara Materna, chief of the California Department of Public Health's occupational health branch, told Reuters.
"It is the largest outbreak of hantavirus that we've seen. We're looking at it as an opportunity to learn more about this condition, how exposure happens and how to prevent it," she added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounded a worldwide alert about the virus over the summer, saying visitors to the popular insulated Curry Village tent cabins between June and August were at risk of contracting the disease.
The nine confirmed infections marked the biggest cluster of cases since the disease was first identified in the United States in 1993, when it infected 18 people in the U.S. Southwest.
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.
Among the lingering questions over the outbreak is why hantavirus infected park visitors while sparing employees. Questions will cover living conditions, contact with rodents and hantavirus-prevention training.
Materna and a team of public health officials arrived in the popular national park on Monday to administer the 50-question survey and blood tests examining willing workers' exposure to hantavirus following a smaller pilot study last month. By Monday afternoon, 300 employees had signed up.
The epidemiological study is part of a broader scientific effort, including the first whole-genome sequencing for the hantavirus strain that struck Yosemite last summer.
Humans have never been known to transmit the virus, which kills more than a third of those infected. People can inhale hantavirus when mice droppings mix with dust, especially in confined, poorly ventilated spaces.
'This is all bad news for the planet,' head of the World Meteorological Organization says
UN agency calls for urgent climate deal as hundreds of thousands fall victims to weather disasters
Fifty grams of processed meat eaten daily increases risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, say experts
COP21 conference aims at securing a pact on greenhouse gases that would limit global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times.
Earth is on track for average warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, exceeding UN's anticipation
The London Project to Cure Blindness was established a decade ago to try to reverse vision loss in patients with age-related macular degeneration
Improvement has been seen around the globe, even in the key tropical rainforests of South America and Africa
Christiana Figueres says there is 1.2 million euros deficit to cover upcoming sessions
Some of the world's major cities, most Pacific island nations are at risk of disappearing due to rising seas
Yemen forces allied to the Houthi have launched a scud missile toward southern Saudi Arabia
Three dozens of fires may cause an ecological catastrophe to Lake Baikal in Russia
National and international slow responses to epidemies show how far the world is from achieving global health security
Call for action in madrassas and mosques around the world is intended to emphasize the role Islam can play in combating climate change
New reports claim parent company Alphabet is attempting to fight malaria and other diseases transmitted via insects
Scientists are predicting that Earth could be heading towards an extraordinary event which would see compasses point south and the sun rise in the West.