March 23, 2016
Emily Davis, 928-638-7609
Grand Canyon, Ariz. –Due to rodent activity and the potential exposure risk to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), the National Park Service has temporarily closed Cave of the Domes. Cave of the Domes, the only cave open to the public within Grand Canyon National Park, will remain closed until further notice. Coconino County has already had two cases of HPS this year.
HPS is a rare but serious disease that humans can contract through contact with infected rodents or their urine, saliva, blood, or droppings. Infection occurs when virus particles are breathed in. HPS is not spread from person to person and can be present in any area in Northern Arizona. Since 2006, there have been five confirmed cases of hantavirus in Coconino County.
Precautions should be taken in wilderness areas or other places that harbor mice. To prevent HPS, public health officials recommend:
·When camping or recreating outside, do not sleep or spend time in close proximity to rodent nests, burrows, or in areas of heavy rodent activity.
·Do not make food or garbage easily available to rodents.
·If rodent droppings or nests are found in and around the home or other buildings, do not stir the area up by vacuuming or sweeping. Spray the area liberally with a disinfectant (such as 1 part bleach to 8 parts water) and allow to soak for at least 15 minutes.
·After disinfecting, wear rubber gloves and use disposable materials such as paper towels or rags to clean, and seal all materials in double plastic bags before disposal.
For more information about HPS prevention and precaution, visit www.coconino.az.gov/health or www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/hps.
Cave of the Domes, located near Horseshoe Mesa at the end of the Grandview Trail, is the only cave open to the public in Grand Canyon National Park. Old mines located near Horseshoe Mesa and throughout the park are also closed. With the exception of Cave of the Domes, permits are required to enter caves in Grand Canyon National Park due to the extremely sensitive nature of cultural and natural resources inside.
For questions about hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, please contact the Coconino County Public Health Services District at 928-679-8750 or Martin Stephens, NPS Office of Public Health at 928-638-7355.