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Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome


Disease: Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
Category: Respiratory diseases

Disease Definition:

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is an infectious disease. It is marked by flu-like symptoms that progress rapidly to potentially life-threatening breathing problems.


Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome could be caused by several types of hantavirus. Several types of rodents carry these viruses, especially the deer mouse. Infection occurs when someone breathes air infected with hantaviruses that are shed in rodent droppings and urine.


The best protection against hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is avoiding rodents and their habitats because the treatment options for this disease are limited.

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Symptoms, Causes


The initial signs and symptoms of this disease appear between one and five weeks after exposure to a hantavirus. This disease advances through two distinct stages:



Some of the early indicators of a hantavirus infection are fever, fatigue and chills, and within several days someone may develop nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and headaches. Hantavirus infection is difficult to distinguish in its early stages from pneumonia, influenza or other viral condition.


Some of the signs and symptoms of early-stage infection may include:


  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Tachycardia, which is abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches, particularly in large muscle groups such as the back, hips and thighs
  • Tachypnea, which is abnormally fast breathing
  • Bubbling or rattling sounds in the lungs (rales)



A cough is usually the indicator that the hantavirus infection has progressed into the cardiopulmonary stage, when the capillaries of the lungs start to weaken and leak fluid. This may be followed by shortness of breath and respiratory troubles.


Some of the signs and symptoms of the cardiopulmonary stage may include:


  • Shortness of breath
  • A cough that produces secretions
  • Multiorgan failure
  • Pulmonary edema, which is the buildup of fluid in the lungs
  • Reduction of oxygen (hypoxemia or hypoxia) and a buildup of carbon dioxide (hypercarbia) and acid (academia) in the blood.
  • Arrhythmia, which is a general term that describes slower or faster than normal heartbeat
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), in which the ability of the lungs to transfer oxygen to the blood is severely impaired.
  • Hypotension
  • Respiratory insufficiency (shock) or failure


A person should seek immediate medical attention in case they've been around rodents or rodent droppings and experience fever, chills, difficulty breathing or muscle aches. They should definitely tell their doctor that they've been around rodents or their droppings.


Each type of hantavirus has a different rodent carrier. The primary carrier of the Sin Nombre virus is the deer mouse; however, rice rate, whit-tailed mouse and cotton rat may also carry hantavirus.



The main route of transmission is inhalation. Hantaviruses are primarily transmitted to people through the "aerosolization" of viruses that are shed in infected rodents' droppings, urine or saliva. When a virus is kicked up into the air, aerosolization occurs, which makes it easier for someone to inhale. For instance, the broom that is used to clean up mouse droppings could nudge into the air tiny particles of feces containing hantaviruses that someone can easily inhale.


Hantaviruses reach the lungs after they are inhaled and begin invading capillaries, which are tiny blood vessels, and cause them to leak. When the lungs flood with fluid, any of the respiratory problems that are associated with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome may be triggered.



There are other methods of hantavirus transmission, but they are rare. After eating food containing rodent excrement or after being bitten by a rodent, a person may become infected. This disease could also be transmitted from one person to another, but it is very rare.





As mentioned before, there are limited treatment options for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. With early recognition, immediate hospitalization and adequate support for breathing, the prognosis improves.


There are two treatment options for hantavirus:

Supportive therapy:

Immediate treatment in an intensive care unit is required for people with severe cases of this disease. Assisted respiration could ward off pulmonary edema and help with breathing. This could be either through intubation, which involves putting a breathing tube through the nose, mouth or trachea to help keep the airways open and functioning, or through mechanical ventilation.

Blood oxygenation:

To help ensure that the patient retains a sufficient supply of oxygen, a method called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation may be needed in extremely severe cases of pulmonary distress. In this method, the blood will be continuously pumped through a machine that removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen. The oxygenated blood that results from this is returned to the body.


The risk of complications from a type of hantavirus found in China is effectively reduced by an antiviral medication called ribavirin.


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