Hantavirus: All you need to know
Published: 12:04 PM, 25 March 2020 Updated: 12:25 PM, 25 March 2020
Chinese man dies from Hantavirus (Symbolic Photo)
While the world is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic which claimed over 19,000 lives globally and forcing countries to announce lockdown all over the world, another virus called ‘Hantavirus’ has now joined the plethora of diseases.
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper reported the death of a man from Yunnan Province tested positive for Hantavirus. The man died on a bus while on his way back to Shandong Province on Monday. China has now tested 32 other people, who were traveling on the bus with the Hantavirus infected man.
What is Hantavirus?
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hantavirus is a family of viruses that can spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied diseases like Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) and Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) in people worldwide.
It can spread to people when they come in contact with urine, feces, and saliva of rodents and less frequently by a bite from infected rodents.
The name of the Hantavirus varies depending on the region, according to several media reports. It is known as ‘New World’ Hantaviruses in America and ‘Old World’ Hantaviruses in Europe and Asia.
Hantavirus in the United States
Hantavirus first attacked in the United States in 1993 during an outbreak of severe respiratory illness in the Four Corners region. It became a nationally notifiable disease in 1995.
Now it is reported by the Nationally Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS) when fever is found in a patient with laboratory-confirmed evidence of Hantavirus infection.
State and Territorial Epidemiologists Council expanded the national reporting of laboratory-confirmed Hantavirus infections to include Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and non-pulmonary Hantavirus infection in 2014. Non-pulmonary Hantavirus reporting cases began in 2015.
Symptoms of Hantavirus
Hantavirus infections may develop through two distinct stages. In the first stage, flu-like signs and symptoms might be experienced by the affected people. These may include:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain or diarrhea
It is very difficult to separate Hantavirus from influenza, pneumonia or other viral conditions in its early stages. More-serious signs and symptoms begin after a week being infected. These may include:
- A cough that produces secretions
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid accumulating within lungs
- Low blood pressure
- Acute shock
- Reduced heart efficiency
- Vascular leakage
- Acute kidney failure
How Hantavirus is transmitted?
Hantavirus transmitted to people primarily through infected rodents droppings, urine or saliva. A virus is very easy to inhale when kicked up into the air.
After inhaling Hantaviruses, they reach the lungs and begin to attack tiny blood vessels, and gradually leak to them. And finally the lungs flood with fluid that can occur many problems associated with Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).
Person-to-person transmission: Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) can’t be transmitted from human to human and the HFRS transmission between people is very rare. But a person who comes in contact with infected rodents droppings, urine or saliva is at high risk to contract the disease even being perfectly healthy.
People at risk of Hantavirus
A person who comes into contact with infected rodents is at risk of Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Even healthy people are at risk of Hantavirus infection.
Any activity that puts you in contact with infected rodents droppings, urine, saliva or nesting materials can place you at risk for infection. Hantavirus can spread when virus-containing elements from infected rodents droppings, urine or saliva are stimulated into the air.
Actions that raise dust, such as sweeping or vacuuming must be avoided to be safe from Hantavirus infections. Infection occurs when you breathe in a virus fragment.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) can become life-threatening quickly as the lungs fill with fluid, breathing becomes difficult gradually and blood pressure drops, organs begin to fail, particularly the heart. According to the CDC, Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) has a mortality rate of 38%.
No specific treatment, cure or vaccine for Hantavirus infection have been invented yet, says the CDC report. However, after recognizing the infected person, medical care in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) might be provided for them. As a result, the condition of the infected may gradually develop.
In ICU, patients are intubated and given oxygen therapy to help them in times of severe respiratory distress. Supportive therapy may be needed to support breathing and to help manage fluid in the lungs. In extremely severe cases of pulmonary distress, a method called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) may be needed to help ensure you retain a sufficient supply of oxygen.
The earlier the patient is brought into ICU, the better. But the treatment will be less effective when a patient is in full distress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rodent population control is the primary strategy to prevent Hantavirus infections. Contact with infected rodents droppings, urine, saliva or nesting materials must be avoided when cleaning rodent-infested areas.
By blocking access, closing the food buffet, reducing nesting material, and setting up traps to keep rodents out of home and workplace, you can reduce your risk of Hantavirus infection.
In addition, the CDC has also stated that rare cases of person-to-person transmission happened among close contacts of a person infected with a Hantavirus named ‘Andesvirus’ in Chile and Argentina.