American Scene: Yosemite shuts cabins at center of rodent probe

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CALIFORNIA

FRESNO — More than 90 cabins in Yosemite National Park were closed for several days after the site was found to be at the center of a mouse-borne virus that has been blamed for the deaths of two people, officials said Thursday.

Park officials said the double-walled design of the 91 cabins that were closed Tuesday made it easy for mice to nest between the walls. The disease is carried in the feces, urine and saliva of deer mice and other rodents.

Over the past three weeks, two people have died of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome after staying in one of the so-called Signature cabins of curry village. Another person is confirmed ill and one more likely has the virus, which kills 36 percent of the people it infects.

Mike Gauthier, Yosemite chief of staff, said the design allowed for rodent infestation. “We just weren’t aware that design would lead to it,” he said.

A report obtained earlier in the day said the National Park Service was warned in 2010 that efforts should be stepped up to inspect for rodents in Yosemite and prevent them from entering areas where people sleep.

The 2010 report issued by the California Department of Public Health was commissioned by the park service.

MASSACHUSETTS

Lab shut down amid improper drug testing

BOSTON — A Massachusetts lab has been shut down after state police discovered that a chemist failed to follow protocols, potentially exposing thousands of drug convictions to legal challenges.

The lab was involved in certifying drug evidence in cases submitted by local police in dozens of communities across the state, including Boston.

State police began an investigation in June, just before they took over operation of the lab from the state Department of Public Health.

They discovered that a chemist who worked at the lab since 2003 had not followed procedures. It is not clear how many cases she mishandled, but she was involved in several thousand cases.

A state police spokesman said the investigation shows that the chemist did more than cut corners. He said police think she deliberately mishandled drug testing.

TEXAS

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