Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a very severe lung infection caused by hantaviruses.
Hantaviruses have been found in both North and South America. Most hantavirus infections in the United States occur in the Southwest. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is caused by a specific type of hantavirus. This type is not found outside of the Americas.
Hantaviruses are spread to humans by contact with rodents and their droppings. The most common hantavirus in the U.S. is the Sin Nombre virus. It is found in deer mice and other rodents.
The hantavirus infection may seem like the flu at first. Early symptoms may include the following: chillsdiarrheadizzinessfeverheadachemild coughmuscle achesvomiting
However, the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome worsens quickly. The person may experience difficulty breathing. The person's blood pressure drops quickly. The infection progresses rapidly, leading to respiratory failure and shock. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome has a high mortality rate.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is caused by an infection with hantaviruses. Hantaviruses are found in the urine, saliva, and droppings of infected rodents. When materials containing these body products are stirred up, the virus gets into the air. A person who breathes this air can get a hantavirus infection.
Air infected with hantavirus from rodent droppings can be found in the following places: in cabins and outbuildings that have been closed up for the winterin campgrounds in rodent-infested areasin crawl spaces and vacant buildings infested with rodentsin homes that are infested with rodents
It is important to avoid breathing air contaminated with hantaviruses. Following are some steps to minimize contact with body products of infected rodents. Air out closed buildings for an hour before cleaning them.Disinfect areas rodents have been in before cleaning them out.Repair holes in screens and cracks in walls to keep rodents out.Trap rodents and dispose of them properly.Disinfect and clean up rodent nests and droppings.Double bag disinfected materials, then burn or bury them.
Household disinfectants are effective against the hantavirus. A solution of 1-1/2 cups of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water can also be used.
The diagnosis of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome begins with a medical history and physical exam. An antibody titer test can be done to see if the person has been exposed to the hantavirus.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is often fatal.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is not spread from person to person.
An individual with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome needs treatment in the intensive care unit. A ventilator, or artificial breathing machine, may be needed. Medications will be used to maintain the blood pressure and prevent the body from going into shock. The antiviral medicine ribavirin (i.e., Copegus, Rebetol, Ribasphere) is currently being studied for its effect on the infection.
The most common side effect of ribavirin is anemia, or a low red blood cell count.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is often fatal. Someone who recovers may have breathing problems for a long time.
If the person survives the infection, he or she will have regular visits with the healthcare provider. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the provider.