, Salem, MA


September 8, 2012

Yosemite won't close High Sierra Camps

LOS ANGELES — Yosemite National Park officials said they “thought very seriously” about closing the High Sierra Camps early after a case of hantavirus was linked to the camps, but have decided to keep them open.

Park spokesman Scott Gediman said the decision was made after consulting with public health authorities. The High Sierra Camps are scheduled to close for the season on Sept. 17.

Eight cases of hantavirus have been linked to Yosemite. Three people have died. In seven of the cases, the victims stayed in one of the “signature tent cabins” at Curry Village.

But the eighth case is an outlier.

The newly reported infection was linked to camps along the High Sierra Loop, a route in the park’s high country frequented by backpackers. Gediman said a Northern California man spent time in July at four spots along the loop: the Merced Lake, Sunrise and Vogelsang camps and the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.

The man became sick after his visit but recovered on his own, Gediman said. He contacted his doctor after he heard about the outbreak; it was later confirmed that he had contracted the disease.

Now Yosemite officials are sending emails and letters to an additional 6,000 people who stayed in the High Sierra Camps and the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge this summer, Gediman said.

That email states: “Although the (California Department of Public Health) has not identified the specific location inside or outside the park where the individual may have contracted the disease, and a definitive location may never be known, the CDPH has advised that the High Sierra Camps are the most likely source of the infection.”

Gediman emphasized that the Northern California man’s case was “outside of the envelope” and that authorities believe travelers who stayed at the Curry Village signature tent cabins remain at greatest risk.

“It does cause us concern,” he said. “But we don’t feel overall it changes things dramatically.”


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