Health and Fitness

What Exactly Is Hantavirus-and Should You Be Worried?

Here are some things you need to know about hantavirus, including its origins, severity, and treatment.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, people have been on high alert when it comes to viruses. So, it comes as no surprise that, when news of a man who died on a bus in China due to hantavirus appeared on state-run media The Global Times, misleading WhatsApp messages were sent about the "new" virus. Before you panic, however, it's best to know what exactly hantavirus is.

Here are some things you need to know about hantavirus, including its origins, severity, and treatment.

The Trending Virus of the Week

The reason hantavirus has generated a lot of interest is because of a man who tested positive for the virus in China. Fears over coronavirus have heightened the worry for hantavirus, and it has trended on the Internet because of it. But it is vastly different from COVID-19.

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For starters, it's a rat-borne virus that has many kinds. While some can cause a deadly yet rare disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), hantaviruses are rarely transmitted from person to person.

Meet the Rodents

Hantaviruses were first observed in Korea in the 1950s. There are many kinds, including Hantaan virus, Belgrade or Dobrava virus, Seoul virus, Puumala virus, and Sin Nombre virus.

According to the World Health Organization, hantavirus infections were first reported in the U.S. in 1993. It has since been detected in over 20 other states, as well as Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

In Asia, the virus is centrally focused in Japan, South Korea, North Korea, China, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. That's not to say that the Philippines is exempt. Locally, urban rats in the country are infected with the Seoul virus, which is associated with hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).

In 2000, Makati Medical Center's Tropical Disease Foundation conducted a study to determine hantavirus antibodies in asymptomatic volunteers from various communities in the Philippines. Researchers found that the prevalence of infection is comparable to other developing countries.

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Should I Be Worried?

Unless you're planning on eating mice and rats, then no, you really shouldn't be that worried. Not all kinds of mice and rats have hantaviruses, but it's still best to avoid wild rodents and, by extension, their urine, droppings, saliva, and nests.

Just stay clean, keep mice and rats out, and definitely throw out anything that looks like it's been nibbled on by rodents. Plus, be on the lookout for HPS and HFRS symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches.

Hantaviruses Can Be Fatal

HPS and HFRS are fatal. HPS has a mortality rate of 38 percent, while only one to two percent die after developing HFRS. It's imperative that those infected receive medical care in an intensive care unit.

There is no specific treatment, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "The earlier the patient is brought in to intensive care, the better. If a patient is experiencing full distress, it is less likely the treatment will be effective."

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Paolo Chua
Associate Style Editor
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