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Hantavirus- a mouse drooping disease and Hantavirus symptoms

By Dr. Zahid Iqbal

Hantavirus

Hantavirus is a type of virus which infect rodent but not causing diseases in them. Hantavirus when getting entry into humans can cause some serious infections.

Genome

What is Hantavirus? This is a burning question these days.

Well, it is a single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the Hantaviridae family of viruses.

The member of this family is called Orthohantaviruses or in short Hantavirus. They can produce Hantavirus disease with various symptoms.

Where they are found?

They are found frequently in Asia and Europe but may be present in all parts of the world except Australian continent.

In the American region, they are called “New-world viruses”, and in the rest of the world as “old-world viruses”.

This virus was first found during the Korean War in the vicinity of HANTAN RIVER in South Korea.

That’s wh it is called Hantavirus.  1970, Ho Wang Lee, first isolated this virus.

worldwide distribution of Hantavirus

Is it a Mice drooping disease?

The virus are found in the rodents like rats, mice, etc but they don’t harm them. Drooping means poop, feces, or stool. Viruses are present in rodent’s saliva, urine, and drooping.

mouse drooping on shelf seen in a dwelling that was unoccupied for about seven months

As rodents, mostly mice or rats are found in the surrounding of humans, some people also called it “mouse poop disease”.

Because,the rodent (commonly rat and mouse) are involved in producing the hantavirus disease, so are called hantavirus mouse or hantavirus rat.

Do house mice carry Hantavirus?

Not all mice carry this virus. In the united states, most commonly, white-footed mice, deer mice, cotton rats, and rice rats carry hantavirus.

Only 15-20% of the above-mentioned rodents carry Hantavirus.


How long does Hantavirus live in droppings?

The virus can live in the environment of 2-3 days at room temperature


Hantavirus transmission -how does this occurs in humans?

The chances of infections are more in rural areas where rodents may be present in abundance.

So home and workplaces where rodents are more, people are at greater risk of catching hantavirus.

The virus is usually transmitted to humans by inhalation of contaminated air.

This process is called airborne transmission. Actually small droplets from rodents’ urine, drooping, and saliva may form small airborne droplets. In this way, Hantavirus is transmitted to humans via aerosolization.

There are some other ways of virus transmition to humans like ,

  • Rodents bite (though , it is rare)
  • By eating contaminated food
  • By touching drooping, urine and saliva and then touching their mouth and nose.

There are many types of Hantaviruses but the majority of them do not produce diseases in humans.

What are Hantavirus symptoms in humans?

Hantaviruses can affect mainly two human body systems.

#1 Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)

When they affect the respiratory system this is called Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) or Hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS). It has early and late symptoms.

Early symptoms include;

  • Headache
  • Muscles ache
  • Fever
  • Chill
  • Stomach problems
  • Dizziness

Late symptoms include;

  • Lung filled with fluid(pulmonary edema)
  • Difficulty in breathing

In the late stages, it can lead to life-threatening respiratory and cardiac problem. This is more common in United States so caused by “new world Hantavirus”.

#2 Hantavirus hemorrhagic fevers with renal syndrome-HFRS

This is caused by “old-world Hantavirus” and is more common in Asia and Europe. Initially, the symptoms may include fever, chills nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, etc. later bleeding may occur in various parts of the body including under the skin. Low blood pressure may occur. Later, kidneys dysfunction may peruse.

Who is at greater risk?

All healthy humans are at risk. Some people and professionals are at greater risk which may include;

People in the rural setting

This is because of more chances of rodents present in that area. Many stores and warehouses are present in rural areas to store food stuff , so chances are more there.

Cleaning activities in vacant Buildings

This may include storerooms, basements, garages, and cabins, etc, that have been closed for a long time. These sites are a possible risk for Hantavirus infections. So care must be taken while cleaning unoccupied dwellings.

Professional

Some people like researchers dealing with rodents, Cleaners, utility, farmers, construction, etc have more chances of contact with rodents and thus infection.

Campers/Hikers

Living in cabins, huts, which are unoccupied for a long time particularly near forests and fields.

Hantavirus treatment-what are possibilities?

There is no specific treatment to date. Only supportive therapy is provided to the patients. Serious cases must be admitted to the hospital with intensive care support.

The use of antiviral drugs hasn’t proved to be effective yet.

Are any long-term complications?

It is observed that people who suffered from the new world virus recovery completely if they don’t have any secondary infections or have any other complications. It doesn’t lead to any chronic infection in humans.

For some people that have low immunity, the infection may last longer but the virus itself doesn’t pose any longer effects on humans.

What are Prevention?

Hantavirus is best prevented by minimizing the contact with rodents with humans. So care must be taken at all places like home. offices, educational institutes, old age homes and other places where humans may be present.

You must prevent all the ways through which rodents can get entry into homes like closing holes and cracks. Another option is keeping predators like cats at home so that they can reduce the chances of rodent’s presence at home .

The virus can survive for 2-3 days at room temperature. Sunlight can destroy viruses in few hours. So proper ventilation along with proper cleaning of rodent droppings or urine is essential to minimize the survival of viruses.

Vaccine

FDA hasn’t approved any vaccine yet. However, Vaccine against a few viruses is being used in South Korea and China. Research is still underway.

Epidemiology

This virus are present in all Humans occupied continents except Australia.

Hantavirus in America

During the year 1993 in May, an outbreak occurred in the southwestern United States with some unexplained pulmonary illness. Within a short period, investigators discovered that five young healthy people had died after acute respiratory failure. By November the specific Hantavirus that causing the outbreak was isolated. Since then virus outbreaks have occurred in several places across the US.

The most common Hantaviruses in the US are;

  • Sin Nombre orthohantavirus
  • New York orthohantavirus
  • Bayou orthohantavirus
  • Black Creek Canal orthohantavirus

From 1995 to 2017, 728 cases of Hantavirus had been reported in 36 states of the US. Hantavirus cases are mainly reported in the United States from New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, Washington, Texas, Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon.   Hantavirus in Michigan is also reported in Washtenaw  County recently . A female was hospitalized with a fatal pulmonary illness from Sin Nombre hantavirus. She was probably exposed while cleaning an unoccupied home.

Death Ratio

The death ratio remained about 36% of all reported cases.

Luckily, the types of Hantavirus that cause HPS in the US are not transmitted from person to person like by touching or kissing.

But in South America, the countries like Argentina and Chile, there are few cases where viruses had transmitted from person-to-person

Canada

Most of the cases in Canada were due to “Nombre Virus” and the culprit for transmitting was ‘deer mice’. A total of 109 cases were reported in Canada from 1989 to 2014 with a death ratio of 29%. Most of the cases were from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. The majority of cases were linked to the farming and domestic setting.

South America

Among the viruses found in South America, the most prominent one is Andes Virus. It is also known as Castelo de Sonhos ( Portuguese for “Castle of Dreams”), Oran, Juquitiba, Lechiguanas, Araraquara, and Bermejo virus. This is the only Hantavirus that can be transmitted from person to person.

Europe

Two types of Hantaviruses i.e., “dobrava Belgrade”and “puumala”affect people in most European regions except the Mediterranean. Yellow necked mouse and stripped field and blacked sea mouse are host for these viruses.

Asia

In Asia , China, the Korean peninsula, Hong Kong, Russia are affected by viruses. The major culprit remained in these countries are Puumula, hantaan and Seoul viruses.

Australia and New Zealand

These are countries that are spared by Hantaviruses. One of the reasons may be that rodents have antibodies against viruses.

Africa

A type of hantavirus called Sangassou virus is most common in Africa that was isolated in 2010.

Brief History

In 1931, a clinical case was detected in northeast China. Just about the same time in the 1930s, it was also identified in Sweden. Infection with Hantavirus came to the detection for western physicians during the Korean War.

 During this war, from 1951 and 1954 more than 3,000 UNO soldiers became victims of the outbreak. In the United States during 1993, an outbreak occurred, and after that sin nombre orthohantavirus was found. Since then, about 43 Hantavirus types are sound among referred to as the “New World Hantaviruses”.

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