Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is caused by infection with hantaviruses. Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents to humans. Several types of hantaviruses commonly found in the Americas may cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Other types commonly found in Europe and Asia may cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease.

Symptoms

Early symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches, especially in thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomitting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and a strong feeling of shortness of breath.

Diagnosis

Early symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and fatigue are easily confused with influenza, which makes the early diagnosis of HPS difficult. It’s important that the individual tells the physician about the history of potential rural rodent exposure.

Lab tests can help to confirm the diagnosis. Common tests can include the blood tests for hantavirus infection, hantavirus antigen, or hantavirus RNA sequences.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment, cure, or vaccine for hantavirus infection. But the prognosis improves with early recognition, immediate hospitalization and adequate support for breathing.

Specifically, in severe cases, the patients’s lungs will be filled with fluid from infection, making it difficult to breathe. That’s when patients need immediate treatment in ICU and get intubation and mechanical ventilation to support breathing.

Moreover, in extremely severe cases of pulmonary distress, the patients will need a method called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to help ensure a sufficient supply of oxygen.

HPS has a mortality rate of 38%.

Prevention

Rodents in the United States that carry Hantavirus include cotton rat, deer mouse, rice rat and white-footed mouse. In the US and Canada, the Sin Nombre hantavirus is responsible for the majority of cases of hantavirus infection, and the host is the deer mouse.

Hantaviruses are transmitted to people primarily through the aerosolization of viruses shed in infected rodents’ droppings, urine or saliva. Recent research results show that many people who became ill with HPS developed the disease after frequent contact with rodents and/or their droppings around a home or a workplace. On the other hand, many people who became ill reported that they had not seen rodents or rodent droppings at all.

People who become infected with the North American strain of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome aren’t contagious to other people. However, certain outbreaks in South America have shown evidence of being transmitted from person to person, which illustrates variation across strains in different regions.

If you live in an area where the carrier rodents are known to live, these are what you could do:

  • 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.
  • Try to keep your home, vacation place, workplace, or campsite clean.
* 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.