Hantavirus Infection

HantavirusHantaviruses are viruses that are found in the urine, droppings and saliva of rodents, most commonly the deer mouse. People may be infected by coming into contact with these. They may also catch the infection after being bitten by an infected rodent. Hantavirus infection in North America is a rare but serious illness. It is caused by a specific strain, the Sin Nombre virus. Infection can result in Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which begins with a flu-like illness that gets worse more and more. This ultimately makes one have difficulty breathing.

Image Content Provider: CDC/DPDx - Melanie Moser

Symptoms

Symptoms of HPS generally appear between 3 days to 6 weeks  after exposure to the virus. Typical symptoms are similar to the flu. These symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, diarrhea, abdominal pain and shortness of breath. Symptoms generally start mild but may progressively get worse. Infection without symptoms is rare.

Causes

The most common host of the hantavirus is the deer mouse. Other rodent kinds have been shown to be infected though. The deer mouse can be found primarily in rural and semi-rural areas. They can also reside in urban centres. They often invade homes and old buildings, especially in the fall.

Hantavirus rarely, if ever, spreads from person to person. This has never been documented in North America. Hantavirus infection usually spreads to people when they come into contact with the droppings, urine or saliva of infected rodents. This also happens when people breathe in virus particles that get into the air when the droppings, urine or nesting materials are moved.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for HPS. However, early detection and medical care is extremely important. This is because 30—40% of HPS cases result in death, usually within a few days after the initial symptoms appear. Those who are infected with HPS may be given medication for fever and pain, as well as oxygen therapy.

Prevention

The best way to minimize your risk of acquiring HPS is to ensure rodent control in and around the home. You should also treat all rodent droppings as potentially harmful. Avoid all contact with rodents and learn how to clean up rodent droppings safely. For more information, please review the links below.


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