A man from China’s Yunnan province tested positive for the Hantavirus on Monday leading to some panic among citizens of the world who are still reeling from the Wuhan coronavirus.
Now before we panic, it’s important to understand that the Hantavirus which causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
But it’s important to understand that it's caused by rodents.
CDC says: “Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied disease syndromes in people worldwide. Each hantavirus serotype has a specific rodent host species and is spread to people via aerosolized virus that is shed in urine, feces, and saliva, and less frequently by a bite from an infected host. The most important hantavirus in the United States that can cause HPS is the Sin Nombre virus, spread by the deer mouse.”
There have been sporadic cases in India. In 2008, the Hantavirus struck the Irulas, a group of snake and rat catchers.
In 2016, a 12-year-old in Mumbai had died of the hantavirus infections.
According to Govt of Canada’s Public Health Service, one can get the disease by inhaling virus particles from rodent urine, dropping or saliva . It can happen when rodent waste is served up from vacuuming or sweeping. It can be caused due to touching objects or eating food or saliva that has been released in the air. Rat bites can also cause it but it’s very rare.
The CDC: “Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure. Even healthy individuals are at risk for HPS infection if exposed to the virus.”
Signs & Symptoms
HPS has a small incubation period and symptoms deliver over 1 to 8 weeks.
Early ones include:
These occur in large muscle groups like thighs, hips, back and shoudlers
Others include headaches, dizziness, chills, abdominal pain, nausea vomiting, diarrhoea.
Later symptoms include lungs filling with fluid, which feel like pillow on one’s face.
HPS has fatality rate of 38%, making it more dangerous than coronavirus.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosis is difficult because symptoms can be confused with influenza, much like the coronavirus symptoms. Individuals with fever and fatigue and who are exposed to rats should be tested. In India, groups such as irulas, who hunt rats and snakes, have been found to be vulnerable.
No specific treatment other than medical care and ICU, where oxygen therapy can help with respiratory distress. The earlier the patient reaches ICU, the better it is.
Minimise contact with rats at home or work. Clean up properly and use pest control.