News & ToursJanuary 8, 2008

Hantavirus "not a concern" at Torrey Pines

This story appears in the January 11 issue of Golf World.

WHEN the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last week that mice testing positive for hantavirus had been found in the Torrey Pines State Reserve, there was some concern about the nearby Torrey Pines golf courses, home of this month's Buick Invitational and, later in the year, the U.S. Open. Would caddies be required to carry snap-traps? Would players have to wear surgical masks? Would Johnny Miller run out of rodent jokes?

The concern was real because hantavirus can be a serious illness. While it usually results in symptoms similar to the common flu, the illness can progress and in a small number of cases even result in death. According to the paper, more than 375 people have died from hantavirus in the United States since 1993.

Tom Wilson, the tournament director for the Buick Invitational (Jan. 24-27), said he received assurances from city officials that there were no problems that would affect that event or the Open. "Besides," he added, "the State Preserve is about 300 feet below the golf course."

Jody Kummer, the reserve's supervising Park Ranger, said the virus "is not an issue" for either tournament or for daily-fee players.

"As long as you're in the open, like on a golf course or a trail, you can't catch the virus," she said. "It's only when you're in a closed space, such as a small attic, for a length of time where you can have a potentially damaging contact with the virus. You'd have to climb into an attic, sit on a mouse's nest and breathe for awhile in the closed space in order to be at risk."

San Diego County health officials announced Dec. 29 that blood samples taken from two wild mice caught in traps in November tested positive for the virus. Health officials returned to the field Jan. 3, wearing ominous-looking safety suits, to check traps for more mice. They said results on a battery of lab tests on those mice would be available in about two weeks.

So while Torrey Pines officials might consider Tiger-proofing their course (he's won the Buick Invitational the past three years), there is apparently no need to mouse-proof it.

-- Ron Lux

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