Risk Assessment in Yosemite

I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time on the drive to Yosemite lecturing anyone who cared to listen on the dangers of national parks and how to survive desert hiking (actually of little direct relevance to Yosemite but of general survival interest). I felt we were as well prepared as we could be to tackle a few days in the wild.

Then with a few hundred miles to go, I caught the tail end of a news item on the radio about a recent hantavirus outbreak in the park. I knew all about hantavirus. There was an informative section in my Grand Canyon bible. I knew, for example, there is no treatment or cure and a third of the victims die. I was not happy to hear it was endemic in the very section of the park we were heading for.

I found the appropriate section in the book and gave a further lecture in the car on the disease and possible avoidance tactics. I was shouted down and accused of scaremongering.

On entering the park, we were given a map and two leaflets on hantavirus, thus making it plain that the Yosemite officials were as concerned as me about the outbreak. I studied the leaflets intently and spent most of the remaining journey planning how we would exist over the next few days avoiding dust potentially containing mice droppings and urine.

I suggested leaving suitcases in the car to avoid dust transference, and wearing and sleeping in the same clothes during our stay. No one liked this idea.

Anyway, we managed a lovely 17 mike hike up the Yosemite valley to the Nevada Falls today without observing any mice, although squirrels run amok. Even in the dining establishments in the park. It is not pleasant to have squirrels running around your feet as you sit drinking coffee. I’m not surprised they have rodent problems elsewhere.

Luckily the hantavirus outbreak is on a campsite a few kilometres away from our lodges. So we are optimistic about survival, although I remain on the alert and will be sending the kids back to uni with detailed lists of symptoms. I fear any incidents of Freshers Flu will induce panic but the kids are instructed to be assertive and demand appropriate tests if necessary.

No bear sightings yet.

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