Published On: Thu, Sep 27th, 2012

Hantavirus : Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Diagnosis and Prevention

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What is Hantavirus ?

Hantavirus is a life threatening disease that spreads to humans through rodents. These are the negative sense RNA viruses belonging to the Bunyaviridae family.

Causes of Hantavirus:

Humans can be infected with hantavirus through rodent bites, urine, saliva or contact with the rodent contaminated waste products. The main carrier of the hantavirus are rodents especially deer mice. This hantavirus does not spread from human to human.

The rodents carrying the hantavirus are generally found in the US national parks.

The contact with the rodent contaminated products is possible during cleaning houses etc.

Symptoms of Hantavirus:

The incubation period of the hantavirus is two to four weeks and it produces like symptoms:

The early symptoms of Hantavirus:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain

The later symptoms include difficulty in breathing and the disease condition gets worsened and consists of other symptoms like:

  • Dry cough
  • General malaise
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

Some of the diseases of the hantavirus:

1. Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome:

It was previously known as the “Korean Haemorrhagic fever” and “Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome” is the term that is accepted by the World Health Organisation.

The symptoms of this fever is divided into 5 phases:

Febrile phase: The symptoms in the febrile phase occur for 3 to 7 days and starts after 2 to 3 weeks after the exposure to the virus and include influenza like symptoms like fever, chills, diarrhoea, sweaty palms, nausea, headache, malaise, abdominal pain, , respiratory problems and other gastro intestinal problems.

Hypotensive phase: This phase occurs for 2 days and this is due to the drop in the blood platelet levels and the symptoms leads to tachycardia and hypoxemia.

Oliguric phase: This phase occurs for 3 to 7 days and results in the onset of renal failure and proteinuria.

Diuretic phase: This phase lasts for a couple of days to few weeks and is characterized by diuresis of 3 to 6 litres per day.

Convalescent phase: In this last phase the symptoms begins to improve and normal recovery occurs.

2. Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome:

It was known as the “Four Corners Disease“.

It is a fatal disease caused by the infection of the hantavirus and the symptoms are similar to the “Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome” and also include tachycardia and tachypnea. The patients will suffer with difficulty to breathe, cough and shortness of breath.

This can result in a cardiovascular shock and the patient has to be hospitalized.

Tests for identifying the Hantavirus disease:

A physical examination is to be done for identifying the disease and it may reveal the conditions like

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Low oxygen levels in the blood causing blue colour of the

The tests that are to be performed for detecting Hantavirus are:

  • Blood tests for checking the signs of the hantavirus
  • Complete blood count
  • Complete metabolic panel
  • Kidney and liver functioning tests
  • X-ray of the chest

Treatment of Hantavirus Disease:

There is no proper antiviral treatment and the person recovers naturally from the infection of the virus. The patients are admitted in the hospital, generally in the intensive care unit.

The treatment includes:

  • Providing oxygen to help them in breathing
  • Breathing tubes or breathing machines are provided in severe cases
  • A drug named as ribavirin (anti-viral) can be given for treating kidney related problems and for reducing the risk of death
  • failure may often result in death.

Complications of the hantavirus:

Hantavirus can result in the failure of kidneys, lungs and heart leading to the death of the person.

Prevention of the hantavirus:

  • Hantavirus can be prevented by keeping your surroundings clean and by disposing of rodent nets.
  • Rodent dens should be avoided and they need to be sealed.
  • Drink disinfected water.
  • Make your house free from rodents.

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