Hanta virus is a distant cousin of Ebola virus, but is found worldwide. The virus is spread by human contact with rodent waste. Dangerous respiratory illness develops. Effective treatment is not yet available and over 50% of cases end in fatality.
Causes of Hantavirus Infection
Hantaviruses are part of the viral family Bunyaviridae. They represent one of the groups of zoonotic viruses, which can be transmitted from animals to humans. Hantaviruses are spherical, about 100 nm in diameter. Interestingly, unlike humans, their genetic material is not composed of double-stranded DNA. Instead, it is composed of a single strand of RNA in three segments. These viruses are surrounded by a lipid (fatty) envelope, so they are somewhat fragile. The lipid envelope can be destroyed and the virus killed by fat solvents like alcohol, ordinary disinfectants and household bleach. That is why one of the most important ways to prevent transmitting HPS is to carefully wet down dead rodents and areas where rodents have been with disinfectant and/or bleach. When you do this, you are reducing the chance that any virus will get into the air, as well as killing virus particles themselves.
Signs and Symptoms of Hantavirus Infection
As far as human disease is concerned, hantaviruses are divided into two major groups. The Hantaan, Puumala, and Seoul viruses are found mostly in the Asia and Europe. They cause a group of illnesses called hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). In people with HRFS, the kidneys may not function properly, so the body is not as able to produce urine. People with severe cases of HFRS may have circulatory problems, including shock, bleeding, and fluid buildup in the lungs, and abnormal liver function is sometimes seen. In general, these hantaviruses cause death in less than 10% of the people who become infected with these viruses. So far, the second group of hantaviruses has been found only in the Americas. In the United States, this group includes the Sin Nombre virus (SNV), carried by the deer mouse, which caused the well-publicized "Four Corners" outbreak. Three other hantaviruses have been recently discovered that have caused several cases with the same pulmonary symptoms. The Black Creek Canal virus, carried by the cotton rat, was found in Florida, while the Bayou Virus, carried by the rice rat, was found in Louisiana. In New York, the New York-1 virus was linked to the white-footed mouse. Several other hantaviruses, Prospect Hill, Rio Segundo, Rio Mamore, and El Moro Canyon, have also been discovered, but they have not yet been associated with any disease in humans. HPS cases have also been confirmed elsewhere in the Americas, in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Paraguay and Uraguay. In addition, rodents carrying viruses similar to Sin Nombre have also been found in Bolivia, Costa Rica and Mexico, but these hantaviruses have not been associated with disease in humans.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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