Hantavirus – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options to Look at
While countries are still burdened and weighed down by the sometimes fatal effect of the coronaravirus (COVID-19) currently ravaging nations, a new and potentially fatal virus, hantavirus has been discovered.
What is Hantavirus?
Hantavirus is a virus that can be found in the saliva, urine and feces of infected rodents. This virus is transmitted from rodents to humans when a person comes in contact with any droppings or saliva of these rodent.
Hanta virus is quite common and there are about 14 subtypes if it including the:
- New York hanta virus
- Black Creek hantavirus
- Sin Nombre
- Seoul virus
Infection with this virus can cause hanta virus diseases such as the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Hanta virus is divided into two groups. the Hantaviruses in the Americas, known as the “New World” hantaviruses and the hantaviruses found in Europe and Asia, known as the “Old World”.
Like the coronavirus, hanta virus could be fatal and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) it comes with a fatality rate of up to 38%, although the mortality rate has been known to get up to 50% in New Mexico.
This virus was first discovered in 1989 and later in 1993 in Canada and since then, there have been 109 confirmed cases with 27 deaths in Canada.
This virus starts out with flu-like symptoms, but could progress to severe infection of the lungs resulting in what is known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).
The virus does no harm to the rodent which is the carrier, but multiplies and breaks down in the urine, saliva and droppings of these infected rodents.
What are the First Symptoms of Hantavirus?
Symptoms of this disease typically develop within 1 to 5 weeks after exposure to the infected rodents. These symptoms could also last for 1-10 days, during which time the infected person will present early symptoms like
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal discomfort like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Other Symptoms to Look Out for
Late symptoms of hanta virus usually come within 4-10 days and include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Severe drop in blood pressure
- Lungs filled with fluid
- Hemorrhaging fever (rare)
- Kidney failure (rare)
How Common is Hantavirus?
This virus is more common in the rural areas of Western United states, although cases of it have also been reported in Asia, Chile and Argentina.
How is Hantavirus Transmitted?
The most common way this virus gets transmitted is through exposure to the droppings, and saliva of an infected rodent.
Rodents in the United States that carry this virus include
- Cotton rat
- Deer mouse
- Rice rat
- White-footed mouse
The virus could get into the human system through inhaling the droplets or through a cut in the skin.
Other ways of infected includes eating contaminated food or via person to person.
Risk Factor of the Virus
Risk factor of this virus includes:
- Staying in a rural area.
- Camping or hiking in areas known known to have such a high rodent infestation.
- Working in an environment easily accessible to these rodents.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hantavirus
Hantavirus is difficult to diagnosed as symptoms often mimic a flu. However, diagnosis, when carried out, is often through a positive serological test and sadly, there is currently no vaccine or treatment for it. However, infected patients are usually put in intensive care and given oxygen therapy support to help with breathing difficulties and other severe symptoms.
Chances of survival go up with early detection and quick placement on treatment.
Cases could progress to HPS which also has no treatment and is often fatal. However, the right treatment and management techniques increases the chances of survival in infected patients.
Preventing a Hantavirus Infection
People who live in urban areas with less exposure to rodents have a reduced risk of this virus.
Also, your chances of infection also goes up by keeping your environment clean with the use of cleaning agents.