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Rodents are to blame for two campers' Yosemite virus deaths, and as many as 1,700 other Yosemite National Park visitors may have been exposed to the virus, officials said Tuesday.
"I know they are actively trying to notify people," the public health director for the National Park Service told the Associated Press. Still, the park service could face potential claims and lawsuits.
The two deceased victims contracted hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a disease caused by a virus that's carried in the saliva, urine, and droppings of infected rodents.
Those rodents likely infested the "tent cabins" at Yosemite's Curry Village, the AP reports. In addition to the two Yosemite virus deaths, at least two other park visitors who stayed in those cabins have also been sickened.
The four hantavirus victims stayed in the park about the same time in June. But Yosemite's virus-exposure warning is going out to everyone who stayed in Curry Village between mid-June and the end of August, according to the AP.
Relatives of the two visitors who died, and others who were infected, may want to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to figure out their legal options.
Those options may include suing the National Park Service and the Delaware North Company, which runs Yosemite's lodging, perhaps for failing to keep the premises in and around Curry Village free of pests.
But a park spokesman insisted that rodents come with the territory when you're roughing it. "This is a wilderness setting. It has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the cabins," he told the AP.
Depending on the nature of their potential claims, plaintiffs may also encounter issues with government immunity. Because the National Park Service is a federal entity, many types of park injuries must first go through a tort claims process (here's a link to the NPS' tort claims form) before a lawsuit can be filed.
As park officials notify campers about the Yosemite virus deaths and potential infections, visitors may want to keep an eye on potential hantavirus symptoms. Fever, aches, dizziness, and chills can develop up to six weeks after exposure to the virus, according to the AP.