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Park Officials Increase Warnings on Hantavirus

Officials of the National Park Service assured a congressional panel Tuesday that they are stepping up efforts to educate the public about virus-infected mice at Channel Islands National Park.

“Although high mouse densities and the presence of hantavirus antibodies combine to create some risk, the risks to [park] visitors are low, finite and are insufficient to consider closing the park,” said Maureen Finnerty, of the National Park Service.

Tim Setnicka, superintendent of the Channel Islands National Park, said his organization plans to increase the number of warning signs and fliers to be distributed to the public.

In addition, Setnicka plans to hold a public seminar in Ventura County in July aimed at educating people who reach the islands via private boats--many of whom might not see the hantavirus warnings posted at island information centers.

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Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) convened Tuesday’s hearing to address growing concerns that large populations of mice that are infected with the hantavirus might pose a serious threat to the more than 60,000 tourists who visit the scenic islands each year.

Hantavirus, which is transmitted by mice, was responsible for 11 deaths in California and 94 deaths nationwide since 1993, officials said. Although as many as 70% of the mice on some of the five Channel Islands carry the hantavirus, no visitors to the islands have reported contracting the disease, officials said.


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