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Hanta Haunts Yosemite While West Nile Attacks Texas

10,000 tourists who stayed in cabins at Yosemite National Park recently might have been exposed to the deadly mouse-borne Hanta Virus. So far , Hanta has made 6 of the tourists ill. Hanta Virus is caused by inhaling the dried feces of infected mice. It is also carried by prairie dogs.

The Park Service is frantically writing and emailing the people who stayed in those cabins this summer, telling them to check in with their doctors.

In the Associated Press, Tracie Cone quotes Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman as saying, "We're reaching out and they are reaching out to us, and we are trying in every way shape and form to be transparent and forthright. We want to tell people this is what we know. The most important thing is the safety of park visitors and employees."

The illness begins with flu-like symptoms and can take six weeks to incubate before acute respiratory and organ failures begin. There's no cure, and anyone with Hanta symptoms needs to be hospitalized. More than 36% percent of people who get Hanta die from it. In 2011, half of the 24 US cases ended in death.

Meanwhile, the number of cases of West Nile cases reported in the US through early September is the highest ever, and most of these have occurred in Texas, where the number of fatalities increased by a third in only one week. The mosquito-borne virus was first detected here in 1999.

Half of the this year's cases come from Texas, where a major drought, followed by rainstorms, may have caused a huge mosquito hatch.

Almost 2,000 cases, including 87 deaths, have been reported to the CDC nationwide. This is a 25% increase in only one week and a 32% increase in deaths from the previous week.

CDC director Lyle Petersen thinks that pathogens are spreading faster because people are moving around the planet at record rates. He says, "The world is a smaller place right now."

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I know of a couple of folks with West Nile here in TX. Both are hospitalized, and one has paralysis as a result. There are so many mosquitos right now. It really does leave me anxious.

Yes, we Texans are in the forefront of disease. Wish I was kidding. I work in public health and we are taking West Nile very seriously, and we recently had a death from the virus in our county.

My county has also been battling pertussis for years, and Williamson and neighboring Travis have been number 1 and 2 for pertussis for quite a while. Only this year have our totals started to drop while the rest of the state and the nation are starting to see more cases and deaths, mainly in babies. When California began having serious problems a couple of years ago it was a big news story. It was so bad here before it ever got to California that we were actually trying to get CDC down here to help us get a handle on the problem and figure out why this county was pertussis central.(They expressed no interest). The number of whooping cough cases nationwide this year is the highest it has been since 1957. Whooping cough can make adults and children pretty miserable (the cough lingers for up to 3 months), but it is life threatening to infants. It doesn't help that parents have become resistant to vaccinating their children, which may be one of reasons it is spreading like wildfire across the country right now. The disease itself is changing too, and we know of adults who have had more than one case of this disease within a span of 5 years (For years experts thought once you got pertussis, you had lifetime immunity. )

If you haven't gotten one already, get a Tdap shot.

The fact that the Hanta virus take WEEKS to incubate is terrifying. That is more than enough time for a person with the virus to travel across the country, if not the globe. Mind you, as it is said in the above article, that there is no cure for the Hanta Virus.

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