Hantavirus infections: What You Need To Know

Hantavirus infections usually present themselves with fever, headache, and generalized muscle aches. Learn more in the following article.
Hantavirus infections: What You Need To Know

Last update: 26 May, 2021

We’re currently experiencing a pandemic caused by the coronavirus. Due to this situation, the whole world has become alert and has begun to document the events, fearing a repetition of this situation. As a result, hantavirus infections have become an increasingly popular subject of investigation.

Hantaviruses are a family of viruses that are present in different types of rodents around the world. Although human infections by this virus are rare, the incidence of this type of virus is increasing and, therefore, worrying the population.

This virus is present in the urine and feces of rodents. Thus, for a person to become infected, they must come in contact with these animals and their droppings. This infection can cause two types of syndromes: Pulmonary and renal.

Experts have identified the two syndromes more clearly in some areas of the planet than in others. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about hantavirus infections.

Where have hantavirus infections occurred?

As we’ve mentioned, hantavirus infections are quite uncommon. They were first detected in the United States in 1993. Typically, sporadic or isolated cases occur within a single country.

This is because the virus spreads mainly by contact with the droppings of infected rodents. There have been reports of occasional outbreaks with human-to-human transmission, like in Patagonia, Argentina. Indeed, it can also spread by inhaling air that contains the virus.

There’s proof that, in areas where there’s a lot of dust, this favors the transmission of this virus. As we’ve pointed out, hantavirus is usually differentiated according to the clinical syndrome it produces.

Thus, the hantavirus that occurred in the United States produced pulmonary syndrome. Cases took place in Canada and other American countries. On the other hand, the hantavirus renal syndrome was the main type in Europe, China, and Korea, although it spread to other areas.

A doctor holding his hands out underneath a digital image of the lungs.

What symptoms does the infection produce?

Hantavirus infections usually express common symptoms, such as sudden fever and headache. Infection usually occurs about 2 weeks after contact with the virus.

Diarrhea, vomiting, and generalized muscle pain are also common. Symptoms most often persist for 4 to 5 days, although cases have been documented where symptoms have persisted for up to 15 days.

In addition to these symptoms, hantavirus infections can cause pulmonary syndrome or renal syndrome. In the case of those who develop a pulmonary syndrome, the symptoms are similar to coronavirus infection.

That’s to say, there’s coughing and shortness of breath. It’s a serious condition that results in death in about half of the cases. This occurs because fluid accumulates around the lungs, which seriously affects lung capacity.

Renal syndrome

Among people who have the hantavirus who develop renal syndrome, there are also different levels of severity. Some people usually have a mild and almost asymptomatic infection.

However, there are cases in which the symptoms become more severe. What happens is that there’s a drop in blood pressure and, as a result, kidney failure develops. In these cases, it’s common to find blood in the urine.

A digital image of the kidneys.

You may be interested in: What Do Your Kidneys Do?

How are hantavirus infections diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose this infection, it’s very important to know the patient’s medical history in detail. The physician should know if the patient’s been in an area where there were many rodents or in contact with rodent droppings.

What’s more, doctors usually perform a blood test to check for the presence of the virus and also to see if there’s kidney or lung involvement. The treatment will depend on the symptoms.

Generally speaking, pulmonary syndrome usually requires oxygen and mechanical ventilation. In the case of renal syndrome, dialysis is sometimes necessary. However, it all depends on the severity of the infection and the medical decisions made on a case-by-case basis.

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