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Chinese man’s death by Hantavirus causes furore. Here is all you need to know

Hantaviruses are enveloped within a genome that consists of three single-stranded RNA segments designated S (small), M (medium), and L (large). All hantaviral genes are encoded in the negative (genome complementary) sense. Rodents are the main reservoir of the virus. Other mammal species may get infected with the virus but they are not known to transmit the virus.

Even as the world is struggling to curb the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus, another virus has surfaced in China. The Communist regime’s English newspaper, Global Times, reported that a person from Yunnan Province in Southwestern China died on his way to Shandong Province for work on a chartered bus. The person has tested positive for the Hantavirus. The other passengers on the bus have been tested for the same.

The Hantavirus is named for the Hantan River in South Korea, where an early outbreak was observed. Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied disease syndromes in people worldwide. There are two syndromes that the virus can cause in humans. One is the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) and the other is the hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). The former is typical in the Americas and is said to be caused by “New World” hantaviruses and the latter is typical of Europe and Asia and is said to be caused by “Old World” hantaviruses.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA, “Hantavirus is spread from wild rodents to people. The virus, which is found in rodent urine, saliva, and feces, can be easily aerosolized in confined spaces when disturbed by rodents or human activities like sweeping or vacuuming. Breathing in the virus is the most common way of becoming infected; however, you can also become infected by touching the mouth or nose after handling contaminated materials. A rodent’s bite can also spread the virus.”

The CDC further states, “Hantavirus is not spread from person to person. You cannot become infected by being near a person who has Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. The virus, which is able to survive in the environment for a few hours or days (for example, in dirt and dust in the shade or in rodent nests), can be killed by most household disinfectants, such as bleach, detergents or alcohol. Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can also kill the virus.” The Andes Virus is the only known Hantavirus that can spread from person to person. It is primarily found in South America.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

The HPS is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease caused by infection with hantaviruses. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. Headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are also observed. These symptoms are observed in almost half of all HPS patients. A common way for people to develop HPS is that the person breathes in the hantavirus from the air.

Late symptoms of HPS include coughing and shortness of breath as the lungs fill with fluid. The late symptoms appear four to ten days after the initial phase of the illness. HPS has a mortality rate of 38%. The incubation period of the virus is not known due to the rarity of the disease. However, it is believed on the basis of the limited information that symptoms may develop between one and eight weeks since the exposure to an infected host.

Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS)

HFRS is a group of clinically similar illnesses caused by hantaviruses from the family Bunyaviridae. HFRS includes diseases such as Korean hemorrhagic fever, epidemic hemorrhagic fever, and nephropathia epidemica. The viruses that cause HFRS include Hantaan, Dobrava, Saaremaa, Seoul, and Puumala. The hantaviruses that cause it is widely distributed across eastern Asia, especially in China, Russia and Korea. Puumala virus is found in Scandinavia, western Europe, and western Russia. Dobrava virus is found primarily in the Balkans, and Seoul virus is found worldwide. Saaremaa is found in central Europe and Scandinavia.

Symptoms of HFRS typically develop between one to two weeks but in rare cases, the symptoms may take up to eight weeks to develop since exposure to the infected host. Intense headaches, back and abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision are the initial symptoms of the disease that begin suddenly. Patients may experience flushing of the face, inflammation or redness of the eyes, or a rash. Later symptoms can include low blood pressure, acute shock, vascular leakage, and acute kidney failure, which can cause severe fluid overload. Symptoms can be severe or moderate depending on the virus that causes HFRS. A full recovery can take weeks or months. The mortality rate ranges from less than 1% to 15% depending on the virus that causes the disease.

Source of Hantavirus table: CDC

General Information

Hantaviruses are enveloped within a genome that consists of three single-stranded RNA segments designated S (small), M (medium), and L (large). All hantaviral genes are encoded in the negative (genome complementary) sense. Rodents are the main reservoir of the virus. Other mammal species may get infected with the virus but they are not known to transmit the virus. The description of the Hantavirus diseases can be traced back to 1951 where an HFRS disease was detected in North and South Korea. The most recent major event in the history of hantaviruses was the discovery of HPS in the southwestern United States, caused by the hantavirus strain Sin Nombre.

Not much is known of the factors that lead to a greater risk of infection. Traveling to areas where Hantavirus infection has been reported is not regarded as a risk factor for infection with the virus. No specific treatment or cure exists for the HPS. Ribavirin has shown to reduce case-fatality in patients infected with HFRS, however, no such benefit has been demonstrated for HPS.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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