Hantavirus: meaning, symptoms, prevention, treatment

Hantavirus: meaning, symptoms, prevention, treatment

Hantavirus is a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents. The virus is responsible for Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) in human beings. The infection has a higher death rate as compared to coronavirus, which has been currently declared a world health pandemic.

picture of hantavirus

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Similar to COVID – 19, HPS is a severe respiratory disease with flu-like symptoms. The first case was reported in America in 1993. Rats are the major transmission agents of the disease. Well, what more do you need to know about this deadly virus?

Essential facts about the infection

Below is all you need to know, including hantavirus meaning:

What is hantavirus?

It is a sort of infection that belongs to the group of Bunyaviridae. The contamination is causes different deadly infections such as Hantavirus pneumonic disorder (HPS) and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Rodents are the principle hosts of the infection consequently the main transmission specialists.

The origin of the virus can be traced back to the United States of America, Europe, and Asia. Also, each type of syndrome has a particular host rodent. Remember, it is majorly transmitted through feces, urine, and saliva of the rodents. Rodent bites are rare as compared to other transmission factors.

Hantavirus structure

The virus genome is said to have a spherical shape with varying diameters ranging between 80 and 120 nanometers (nm). Inside the genome are three single strands of negative-sense RNA. They are denoted by S (small), M (medium), and L (large).

The viral RNA is coated with molecules of nucleocapsid proteins, which forms ribonucleoproteins (RNPs). These types of proteins are enclosed in a lipid envelope that is decorated with glycoproteins (Gn and Gc) spikes.

How long does hantavirus live in droppings?

Often, the infection is vulnerable to most disinfectants. According to the CDC, the virus can stay active in droppings for less than a week in a closed room. On the other hand, it has a low survival rate in outdoor environments, mainly because of sunlight exposure. In other words, it can only survive hours when the droppings are exposed to sunlight.

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Do all mice carry hantavirus?

No. However, chances are any person that comes in contact with rodents, especially mice, are likely to be infected with hantavirus. At the moment, persons coming into contact with the deer mice are more likely to get the virus as compared to others. Other dangerous mice that carry the viruses are the cotton rat, rice rat, and white-footed mouse. Interestingly, most of them are found in the United States.

How to prevent hantavirus

The only way to avoid HPS is by strictly maintaining high hygiene standards at home or residence, as well as your workplace. For instance, ensure you eliminate any chances of them coming into contact with you by sealing the holes/gaps in your food storage stores and garages.

You can also go ahead and clear all the bushes around your home. This way, they will not find a place to leave behind their droppings, which is the primary transmission agent.

Hantavirus causes

hantavirus philippines

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First, there are more than 14 subtypes of the virus. The most common one is the Sin Nombre, which is classified under the “New World hantaviruses.” It is this family of the virus that causes Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in human beings.

Second, People with hantavirus are likely to have contracted the infection by coming in contact with rodents. Well, what are the exact causes and risk factors of HPS and HFRS?

  • Rodent fluids such as saliva and urine
  • Rodent’s feces with dust or dirt
  • Contaminated surfaces with rodent droppings
  • Structures built around the home that can host rodents, especially barns, outbuildings,s and sheds
  • Forests, especially in rural areas
  • A population with a previous history of HPS
  • Eating food contaminated with rodents
  • Rodent bites. However, they have a lower transmission rate as compared to any other risk factors.

Risk potential activities

They include:

  • Cleaning a room or house that has been abandoned for a long time
  • House cleaning activities, especially in closed spaces
  • Camping and hiking in the infested shelters
  • Panting or harvesting field crops
  • Mice studying
  • Residing in buildings that have not been occupied for a long time
  • Work-related exposure such as rodent control specialists or construction workers

Remember, this virus is airborne. Therefore, be careful when handling stuff containing rodent droppings. Fresh droppings, precisely, when stirred into the air, are a potential threat to the spread of the infection.

Can you get hantavirus from old mouse droppings

At the moment, it is believed that all mice, be it young or old, are a significant risk factor for transmission of the infection. Until there is further scientific research on the same, you should not take chances at all. Otherwise, treat them as possible carriers of the deadly infection.

NOTE: Transmission of hantavirus cannot be spread from one person to another. Therefore, unlike coronavirus, there is no need for social distancing. Even so, there is a low probability of person-to-person transmission with some strains, such as the Andes hantavirus. One of such instance happened in Chile.

Hantavirus symptoms

symptoms hantavirus

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In the early stages, an infected person will display flu-like symptoms. The hantavirus incubation signs and symptoms will start showing between the 1st and 8th week after coming in contact with the carrier rodents. They are as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Ever
  • Muscle aches, particularly, on the back, shoulders, hips, and thighs
  • Abdominal pain and complications
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Dizziness

After some time, the patient will start complaining of more complications that are associated with the respiratory system. Some of the late symptoms to expect are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain

Make sure to seek medical aid once you start showing early signs. It will significantly help to contain the disease before it escalates to the second phase.

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Hantavirus diagnostic test

Early diagnosis of HPS, in particular, is sometimes a challenge. However, this happens during the incubation phase only. During this time, one is likely to display flu-like symptoms, which tend to escalate if left unattended.

In other words, there is no particular diagnosis of the virus yet. Often, one is strongly advised to seek immediate medical aid once they notice early symptoms such as headache, body ache, abdominal pain, cough, headache, among many others, as listed earlier.

Also, if you have had close contact with rodents and you show these symptoms, then you have every reason to seek the help of a physician.

Hantavirus treatment

Generally, hantaviruses do not have a specific cure, treatment, or vaccination. Similar to COVID – 19, early diagnosis will determine if the patient can survive or not. Thus, if you notice most of the symptoms highlighted in this piece, and you happen to have come in contact with a rodent-infested space, seek immediate medical aid.

Such patients can be monitored in an intensive care unit. Doctors will be able to help them through supportive therapy and blood oxygenation. Remember, the infection severely affects the lungs, closing the trachea tubes, which are responsible for breathing.

Adequate supportive therapy clears all the fluids in the lungs opening the trachea. On the other hand, blood oxygenation ensures a patient gets enough oxygen to help reduce pulmonary distress caused by the infection.

Hantavirus prevention

hantavirus prevention

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Source: UGC

The best way to stay safe from hantavirus infections is to do away with rodents. Clear all the bushes in your homes, seal all the holes and gaps in the house, and maintain high hygiene standards. Also, ensure you eliminate any easy-to-get food possibilities, especially in the kitchen or food stores.

Apart from general cleanliness, you can also use pest control measures to eliminate rodents. Simply, minimum contact with rodents will keep you safe from the virus.

Hantavirus is a deadly virus with a high death rate. Rodents are the main carriers of the HPS and HFRS. Therefore, each person should eliminate possible contact with rodents at home, workplace, or campsite. Currently, there is no cure, vaccine, or treatment for the virus. Stay safe!

Disclaimer: All the information contained in this article is not implied or intended to be a substitute for any professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content including text, images, graphics, and information contained on or available through this page is for general information purposes.

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