What People Don’t Know About Hantavirus

Hantavirus, also known as Orthohantavirus, is a single-stranded RNA virus that belongs to the Hantaviridae family. It is carried by rodents but does not cause disease in them, and it only causes disease in humans.

Brief history of hantavirus:

  • Hantavirus is named after the Hantan river area in South Korea. A place where the first outbreak was observed in the American and Korean soldiers during the Korean War, which took place between 1950 – 1953. It was isolated by Ho Wang Lee (a south Korean virologist) and his colleagues in 1976 from the lungs of striped field mice. 
  • In 1485, Hantavirus was presumed to have been the cause of a sweating disease that took place in medieval England before the Battle of Bosworth Field. Still, this theory was not accepted between sweating disease was recorded to be transmitted from human to human who is not in line with the mode of transmission of Hantavirus.
  • In 1993 an outbreak of Hantavirus occurred in the four Corners region in the southwestern United States. This was the first time Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome was recognized.
  • In 2005 and 2019, human to human transmission of the Andes virus(a specie of Hantavirus) was reported in South America.
  • On the 24th of March 2020, a man was reported to have died from Hantavirus infection on a chartered bus while on his way to work. According to the Global China times, there are 32 more tested cases for the virus in China.

How Hantavirus Spreads?

It is mostly transmitted from the ingestion of a rodent (rat or mice) feces, urine, or saliva. Human to human transmission is a sporadic occurrence. Hantavirus stays active for 2 – 3 days at normal room temperature and a few hours in direct sunlight. 

What does hantavirus do to humans?

Hantavirus will cause hantavirus hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) diseases, which will decrease and damages the function of these organs (lungs, kidneys, heart).

Hantavirus Hemorrhagic Fever With Renal Syndrome (HFRS):

Hantavirus hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome is also known as Korean hemorrhagic fever, and Epidemic hemorrhagic fever is a type of fever caused by certain species of Hantavirus.

Symptoms

  • Incubation period: Symptoms begin 1– 2 weeks after exposure (in rare cases, it takes up to 8 weeks before manifestations of symptoms).
  • Early Symptoms: Sudden headache followed backache, fever, chills, stomach pain, nausea, and blurry vision. Some patients experience flushing of the face, red eyes, or rashes.
  • Late symptoms: Hypotension (low blood pressure), acute shock and acute kidney failure
  • The course of the disease: HFRS manifest in 5 phases:
  • Febrile phase (early signs): Last for 3 – 7 days.
  • Hypotensive phase: Last for two days
  • Oliguric phase: is characterized by the onset of kidney failure. It lasts for 3 – 7days
  • Diuretic phase: is characterized by excess urine of 3 – 6 liters per day.
  • Convalescent phase: is characterized by recovery and improvement of symptoms.

Species that cause HFRS: Hantaan Orthohantavirus, Dobrava-Belgrade Orthohantavirus, Seoul Orthohantavirus, Saaremaa virus, and Puumala Orthohantavirus.

Regions of the world: it is found in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

HPS is also known as hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome, is a fatal condition caused by Sin Nombre orthohantavirus and carried by deer mice.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms: HPS begins with flu-like symptoms and suddenly becomes deadly. 
  • Early symptoms: Patients usually experience fever, cough, muscle pain, headaches, and weakness.
  • Deadly symptom: Shortness of breath (dyspnea) that is sudden and rapidly evolve into pulmonary edema; it is life-threatening. The use of mechanical ventilation and diuretics is not very helpful. The death rate due to sudden dyspnea is 36%.
  • A specie that causes HPS: Sin Nombre orthohantavirus
  • Regions of the world: it is found in North, Central, and South America.

Prevention Of Hantavirus:

  • Eliminate or minimize contact with rodents
  • Dispose of rodent nests
  • Seal any cracks and holes in the home where mice or rats could get in
  • Use rat poisoning in the home
  • Set up rat traps

Hantavirus Vaccination:

There are no FDA approved vaccines, and no WHO-approved vaccine has gained widespread acceptance worldwide, so the best form of prevention is eliminating contact with rodents (rats and mice).

Treatment Of Hantavirus:

There is no cure or specific treatment for Hantavirus. Usually, Ribavirin (antiviral drugs), and supportive therapy, such as mechanical ventilation, oxygen therapy, and intensive hospital care, is the only way to manage Hantavirus.