Following the news of the first reported case of Hantavirus which resulted in the death of a Chinese man, here are some facts about the disease:
1. Hantavirus is a general name for viruses which is spread mainly by rodents (especially rats and mice) and can cause varying disease syndromes in people.
2. It is spread via the urine, faeces and saliva of infected host animals. Rarely, it can be spread by a bite from the infected host. Anyone who comes in contact with such rodents or stays in rodent-infested areas is at a high risk of being infected.
3. Each Hantavirus has a specific host rodent species. This means that not all rodents transmit the same strain of the virus.
4. There are three syndromes caused by Hantaviruses:
– Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS); particularly common in Europe and Asia.
– Nepropathia Epidemica (NE), a mild form of HFRS which occurs in Europe.
– Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome (HCPS or HPS), common in the Americas.
5. Once infected, the incubation period for the virus is about two to three weeks long; In some cases, it may be up to five or six weeks.
6. Initial symptoms of the Hantavirus disease include acute fever, headache and muscle pains. After a while, the patient develops nausea, fatigue, diarrhea and malaise. In extreme cases, it may lead to kidney failure.
7. There has been no reported case of human-to-human transmission, especially for the American Hantaviruses.
8. There is currently no vaccine for this viral disease. Treatment is mainly to alleviate symptoms and majorly involves isolation.
9. A strain of the Hantavirus, Puumala Virus, can survive outside the host for two weeks at room temperature; even when the rodents have been removed.