Hantavirus Infection

Hantaviruses infect many different types of rodents all over the world. The virus is passed in the rodent's urine, feces, and saliva. When people are infected with the virus, the early stages of this disease are similar to the flu. However, this disease may get worse quickly. It can lead to kidney failure, heart failure, or lung failure and can be life-threatening.

CAUSES

People become infected by ingesting or breathing in the virus in poorly ventilated places that are contaminated with rodent waste. This may occur while the person is living in or cleaning a rodent-infested house or shed, or while hiking and camping in rodent-infested areas.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms typically begin 2 to 3 weeks after exposure to the virus. Early symptoms include:

  • Chills.

  • Fever.

  • Muscle aches.

Some people recover without any further symptoms. In other cases, the disease may suddenly get worse. The following symptoms may then occur:

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Coughing.

  • Headache.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Nosebleed.

  • Bloody stools.

  • Bloody urine.

  • Low blood pressure.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will perform a physical exam. Other tests may be done, including:

  • Blood tests.

  • Kidney and liver function tests.

  • Chest X-rays.

TREATMENT

Severe hantavirus infections require treatment in the hospital. In some cases, you may be taken to the intensive care unit (ICU). Treatment in the hospital includes:

  • Giving oxygen through a breathing tube. In severe cases, a breathing machine may be used.

  • Medicine to treat kidney problems.

  • Kidney dialysis to remove waste from the blood.

PREVENTION

  • Avoid areas with rodent nests or droppings.

  • When camping, sleep on a ground cover and pad.

  • If you must clean an area with rodent nests or droppings, take the following steps:

  • Open all the doors and windows and leave the room. Let the room air out for at least 30 minutes.

  • Spray rodent nests, droppings, carpets, and other possibly infected surfaces with disinfectant or a 10% bleach solution. Allow the solution to sit for 30 minutes.

  • Seal any holes that might allow rodents into the building. You can use steel wool, wire screens, cement, or other patching material.

  • Wear disposable rubber gloves while cleaning. Place all waste materials in a sealed, plastic bag for disposal. Disinfect your gloves before removing them. Wash your hands thoroughly immediately after removing your gloves.

  • Wash all possibly contaminated surfaces with disinfectant or a 10% bleach solution.

  • Do not sweep, vacuum, or stir up dust until the room has been completely decontaminated.