What Is Hantavirus and How Does It Spread?
Hantavirus is a virus that is found in the urine, saliva, or droppings of infected deer mice and some other wild rodents (cotton rats, rice rats in the southeastern Unites States and the white-footed mouse and the red-backed vole). It causes a rare but serious lung disease called Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). The virus does not remain active for long once outside of its host — less than 1 week outdoors and a few hours when exposed to direct sunlight.
The Centre for Disease Control says that the infection with any of the hantavirus can cause hantavirus disease in people. The virus causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). The virus spreads from rodents to humans if a person comes in direct contact with the urine, faeces, and saliva of rodents and less frequently by a bite from an infected host.
Hantavirus was first identified in Canada in 1994. When researchers reviewed other earlier cases, they were able to positively identify that there were at least 3 other cases occurring before 1994, the first happening in 1989. Since 1989, there have been 109 confirmed hantavirus cases and 27 deaths in Canada according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (as of January 2015).
Fatigue, Fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills and abdominal pains are early symptoms of HPS. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. The CDC website says that the virus can be fatal as it has a mortality rate of 38%.
HFRS has similar symptoms to HPS but can also cause some serious problems like low blood pressure, acute shock, vascular leakage, and acute kidney failure.
HFRS can rarely transfer from one person to another.
The hantavirus case comes at a time when the total count of those infected by novel coronavirus globally is nearing the 600,000 mark and scientists are yet to find a cure for it. According to the CDC, controlling the rodent population is the primary method of preventing the Hantavirus from spreading. Even when the world is trying to find a cure for the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, a report in Global Times said that a man from China’s Yunnan province died from Hantavirus while on a bus to the Shandong province. All the fellow passengers on the bus have been tested for the virus.