With over 10,000 people visiting the "Signature Tent Cabins" in Yosemite National Park this summer, it is possible that at least one of those visitors was from upstate New York. Though these travelers may have had a leisurely vacation in one of the most popular national parks, they may have also been exposed to a potentially deadly virus. The hantavirus, which is fatal in nearly one-third of all cases, has no cure, meaning that this could affect infected New Yorkers for the rest of their lives.
The disease is transmitted by rodents and it was only recently that Yosemite officials discovered infected deer mice in the 91 tent cabins. Officials knew that there were illnesses and deaths linked to a Yosemite-based hantavirus, but it was only recently that they discovered just where the infection was coming from.
Two people have died and four others were extremely ill after contracting the disease. Since the incubation period could take as long as six weeks, however, it is possible that more people will become ill in the weeks to come. It is also possible that many people have been sick since returning from their vacations, but they did not make the connection between their illnesses and the park.
Like any public place, visitors to a national park should be able to assume that they are not at risk for contracting a potentially fatal disease while in the park. It is the responsibility of the park officials to keep the park safe and, when they fail to do so, they may be held responsible for visitors' injuries or illnesses.
Source: Reuters, "U.S. CDC says 10,000 at risk of hantavirus in Yosemite outbreak," Dan Whitcomb and Ronnie Cohen, Aug. 31, 2012
Our practice has dealt with several premises liability cases, and if you want more information, you can find it on our New York unsafe premises page.