Hantavirus Disease: Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare infectious disease that starts with flu-like symptoms and progresses rapidly to more severe disease. It can lead to life-threatening lung and heart problems. Hantavirus respiratory syndrome is another name for this disease.
Hantavirus lung syndrome can be caused by a number of different types of hantavirus. They are spread by mice of different kinds. The deer mouse is the most common animal in North America that carries disease. Hantaviruses are generally spread by breathing in urine, droppings, or saliva from rodents that have gotten into the air.
Since there aren’t many ways to treat hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, the best way to avoid getting it is to stay away from mice and clean up their homes.
Most of the time, it takes about 2 to 3 weeks from getting the hantavirus to getting sick. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome has two steps that are different from each other. The most common signs and symptoms of the first stage, which can last for several days, are:
- Chills and fever
- Muscle pain or aches
Some people might also:
- stomach pain
As the disease gets worse, it can damage lung tissue, cause fluid to build up in the lungs, and cause major problems with the way the lungs and heart work. Some signs and symptoms could be:
- Trouble breathing
- A low blood pressure
- Changes in heart rate
When to Go to the Doctor
The symptoms of hantavirus lung syndrome can get worse quickly and may become life-threatening very quickly. If your flu-like symptoms get worse over the course of a few days, you should see a doctor. If you are having trouble breathing, see a doctor right away.
Hantavirus respiratory syndrome is a disease that only affects people and is only found in North and South America. Each type of hantavirus prefers to spread through a certain type of rat.
In North America and Central America, the virus is most often spread by the deer mouse. Most infections happen in places west of the Mississippi River in the United places.
In North America, the rice rat, cotton rat, and white-footed mouse are all other animals that carry the disease. The rice rat and the vesper mouse both carry diseases in South America.
The virus can be found in the urine, feces, or saliva of the rat. You can get the virus in any of the following ways:
- The most likely way to get sick is to breathe in viruses that get into the air when droppings or housing materials from rodents are disturbed.
- Getting sick from eating food that has mouse spit, urine, or droppings on it
- If you touch something with the virus, like a nest, and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose, you could get sick.
- Getting bitten or scratched by a mouse that has a disease
- The virus has only been known to spread from person to person with a type of the virus found in South America. This strain is called the Andes virus.
Effect of the virus
When hantaviruses get to the lungs, they get into small blood vessels called capillaries and make them break. Your lungs fill up with fluid (pulmonary edema), which makes your lungs and heart work very poorly.
Different types of the hantavirus can also cause a disease called hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, which leads to very bad kidney disease. There are other animals in Africa, Asia, and Europe that carry these types of the virus.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is most common in rural parts of the West in the United States. But being around places where rodents live can make you more likely to get sick.
Rat homes, urine, and droppings are often found in the following places:
- Buildings on farms
- houses that aren’t used very often, like storage sheds
- Campers or vacation homes
- Camp sites or cabins for hikers
- The attic or the basement
- Construction sites
Some things that can raise the chance of getting the hantavirus are:
- Opening and cleaning up buildings that hadn’t been used in a long time
- Don’t clean up rat nests or droppings without taking the right steps.
- Working in a job that puts you in contact with rodents more often, like building, utilities, pest control, or farming.
Hantavirus lung syndrome can become very dangerous very quickly. If you have a serious illness, your heart may not be able to pump air to the rest of your body. Each type of the virus is different in how bad it is. The strain carried by deer mice causes between 30% and 50% of deaths.
Keeping mice away from your home and place of work can help lower your risk of getting hantavirus. Use these ideas:
- Keep people out. Mice can fit through holes that are only 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide. Use wire screening, steel wool, metal flashing, or cement to fill in the holes.
- Put an end to the free food. Do the dishes right away, clean the tables and floors, and store food, including food for your pets, in containers that rodents can’t get into. Use trash cans with lids that fit tight.
- Cut down on breeding materials. Brush, grass, and trash should be moved away from the base of a building.
Set traps. Place traps with springs along the walls. Use poison-bait traps with care, because the poison can also hurt people and pets.
- Move yard things that mice and rats like. Woodpiles and waste bins should be moved away from the house.
- Air out rooms that aren’t being used. Before cleaning, open up and let the air out of houses, campers, and other buildings that aren’t used often.
Safe Cleanup Methods
Cleaning in a safe way will help stop the spread of germs. Do these things:
- Wear a mask and gloves made of rubber or plastic.
- Use a disinfectant, alcohol, or a bleach and water solution to spray the nest, droppings, or dead rat. Let it sit for five minutes.
- Use paper towels to clean up, and then throw the towels away in the trash.
- Use a disinfectant on a mop or brush to clean the area.
- Wash your hands with gloves on and throw away the gloves and mask.
- Use soap and water to wash your hands well.