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Australian tourists possibly exposed to deadly hantavirus in US
EIGHT Australians may have been exposed to the deadly hantavirus at Yosemite National Park in California, prompting the federal health department to issue an alert to doctors.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Baggoley has written to the RACGP, the AMA and other associations asking that they raise awareness among health professionals “of the risk of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in Australians” who stayed at the park between June and August.
A health department spokesperson said Australia was notified of the outbreak by the US Department of Health and Human Services under the International Health Regulations.
“The notification to Australia advised that, based on accommodation records in the park, eight Australians may have been exposed to hantavirus since June 2012,” the spokesperson said.
They have been contacted by US public health officials and provided with information on the symptoms of the infection.
Last month reports emerged of two cases at Yosemite, one of whom had died. As of 7 September there have been eight cases, three of them fatal.
Deer mice are the primary source of the viruses that cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the US.
It is transmitted to humans via aerosolised excreta. Person-to-person transmission has not been reported in the US.
“Health professionals should ask about travel history and exposure to rodents in patients presenting with symptoms,” Professor Baggoley wrote.
Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, cough, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.