Hantavirus Infections: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread to human by rodents
via aerosolized virus that is shed in urine, feces, and saliva, and can cause varied diseases in people worldwide.

In America, common hantavirus infections can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). The specific virus is named Sin Nombre virus, spread by the deer mouse. To date, no cases of HPS have been reported in the United States in which the virus was transmitted from one person to another.

In Europe and Asia, common hantavirus infections can cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).

Symptoms

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

Early symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches, especially in thighs, hips, back and sometimes shoulders
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

Late symptoms include coughing and severe shortness of breath.

Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS)

Symptoms of HFRS usually develop within 1 to 2 weeks after exposure to infectious material, but in rare cases, they may take up to 8 weeks to develop.

Initial symptoms begin suddenly and include:

  • Intense headaches
  • Back and abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Red eyes
  • Flushing of the face
  • Low blood pressure
  • Acute shock
  • Vascular leakage
  • Acute kidney failure

Diagnosis

Several lab tests are used to confirm the hantavirus infection.

  • Serologic test for hantavirus infection
  • Evidence of hantavirus antigen in tissue by immunohistochemical staining and microscope examination
  • Evidence of hantavirus RNA sequences in blood or tissue

Treatment

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

There is no specific treatment, cure, or vaccine for hantavirus infection. However, we do know that if infected individuals are recognized early and receive medical care in an intensive care unit, they may do better. In intensive care, patients are intubated and given oxygen therapy to help them through the period of severe respiratory distress.

Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS)

Supportive therapy is the mainstay of care for patients with hantavirus infections. Care includes careful management of the patient’s fluid (hydration) and electrolyte (e.g., sodium, potassium, chloride) levels, maintenance of correct oxygen and blood pressure levels, and appropriate treatment of any secondary infections. Dialysis may be required to correct severe fluid overload. Intravenous ribavirin, an antiviral drug, has been shown to decrease illness and death associated with HFRS if used very early in the disease.

Depending upon which virus is causing the HFRS, death occurs in less than 1% to as many as 15% of patients. Fatality ranges from 5-15% for HFRS caused by Hantaan virus, and it is less than 1% for disease caused by Puumala virus.

Prevention

Eliminate or minimize contact with rodents in your home, workplace, or campsite.

Seal up holes and gaps in your home or garage.

Place traps in and around your home to decrease rodent infestation.

Clean up any easy-to-get food.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.