Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a rare type of syndrome but a potentially life-threatening viral illness transmitted to humans through infected urine or saliva of certain species, such as mice and rats. 


People in the Southwest part of the United States are mostly affected by the hantavirus. It is because they are mostly exposed to rodents.


The Center For Disease Control And Prevention says, in January 2017, 728 cases of hantavirus disease were reported in the United States since it began in 1993. All these are laboratory-confirmed cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and non-pulmonary hantavirus infection.


Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome(HPS) is an infectious disease with flu-like symptoms that can progress rapidly and leads to life-threatening breathing problems.


Just like other viruses, hantaviruses also replicate and lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome(HPS). Such types of viruses spread through various kinds of rodents, particularly the deer mouse. 


People usually get infected by breathing infected air with hantaviruses that are shed in rodent urine and droppings. Since the treatment for hantavirus is limited, the ideal way to remain immune is to avoid rodents and their habitats.

What Are The First Symptoms Of Hantavirus?


Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome(HPS) affects a person in two categorized stages. During its first stage, the infected person experiences symptoms, such as:-


  • Fever and chills
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or pain in abdominal
  • Headaches and muscle aches


It is complicated to identify the virus during its initial stage as it resembles influenza, pneumonia, or other viral conditions. 


Followed by the more severe signs and symptoms after 4-10 days, such as:-

  • A cough that produces secretions
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluid accumulation within the lungs
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduced heart efficiency

What Causes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?


A different preferred rodent carrier carries each type of hantavirus. The deer mouse is the major carrier of the hantavirus virus. 


It is responsible for most hantavirus pulmonary syndrome cases in North America. White-tailed mice, cotton rats, and rice rats are other modes of hantavirus. 


Inhalation: Main route of transmission


Hantavirus's primary mode is through the air droplets of viruses shed in infected rodent's droppings, urine, or saliva. Aerosolization occurs when a virus is exposed to air, making it easy for you to inhale(enter). 


For example, a broom you might use to clean up mouse droppings may contain hantavirus content, further spreading to the surrounding very quickly, including the air.

The inhaled hantaviruses reach the lungs and begin to invade tiny blood vessels known as capillaries, causing them to leak. The lungs will pass on the virus to different respiratory system parts leading to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.


Person-to-person transmission


The infected people of the North American strain aren't contagious to other people. Some outbreaks in South America have shown evidence of being transmitted from person to person, illustrating variation across different regions.

Who Is Most At Risk For Hantavirus?


Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is most common in the western United States' rural areas, especially during the spring and summer months. 


Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome(HPS) is also found in South America and Canada. Another occurrence of hantaviruses in Asia caused kidney disorders rather than respiratory complications.


The risk of developing hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is greater in people who are surrounded by rodents. 


Some factors and activities increase the risk of developing hantavirus, such as:-


  • Opening and cleaning of long-unused buildings or sheds
  • Housecleaning, especially in attics or other low-traffic areas
  • Camping, hiking, or hunting
  • If your surrounding is infested with rodents
  • If your profession involves exposure to rodents, such as construction, utility work, and pest control.

Does Hantavirus Have Medicine?


The treatment for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is limited. But the condition may improve with early recognition, immediate hospitalization, and adequate support for breathing.


Supportive therapy:  Severe cases of HPS require immediate treatment in an intensive care unit. Intubation or mechanical ventilation may also be required to support breathing complications, such as pulmonary edema. 


Intubation involves placing a breathing tube through your nose or mouth into the windpipe (trachea) in order to keep the airways open and functioning.


Blood oxygenation: Extreme severe cases of HPS causes pulmonary distress and demands extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This will help to retain a sufficient supply of oxygenated blood in the body. 


In this procedure, blood is pumped continuously through a machine that removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen, making your blood rich in oxygen.

Where Does Hantavirus Come From?


Human hantavirus infection occurs mostly in rural areas where forests, fields, and farms offer the virus's optimum habitat to existence. Such places around the home or work can potentially lead to exposure to the virus. 


Sin Nombre hantavirus is responsible for most cases of HPS in the United States and Canada. The host of the Sin Nombre virus is the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), present throughout the western and central places of the US and Canada.


Other kinds of hantaviruses are capable of causing HPS in the United States. The New York hantavirus, carried by the white-footed mouse, is linked with HPS cases in the northeastern US. The Black Creek hantavirus, held by the cotton rat, is found in the US's southeastern part.

How Is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Transmitted?


In the United States, deer mice, cotton rats, and rice rats in the southeastern states and Northeast parts are reservoirs of the hantaviruses. 


The rodents shed viruses present in their urine, droppings, and saliva makes the air contaminated, putting the people at risk of hantavirus. This process is known as airborne transmission.


There are several other ways through which rodents may spread to others:-


  • In case a rodent containing the virus bites a person, the virus may be transmitted to that person, but such transmission is rare.
  • Scientists believe people may get infected if they touch something contaminated with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva and then touches their nose or mouth.
  • Scientists also suspect people can develop hantavirus if they eat food contaminated by urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected rodent.


The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another. For example, you cannot transmit these viruses by touching or kissing a person with HPS or a healthcare worker who has treated someone with the disease.




Tags: Symptoms of hantavirus, Hantavirus cases, How to prevent hantavirus