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When the world is desperately searching for the cure of the pandemic Coronavirus, a relatively new threat has been discovered named Hantavirus.
Recently, a man in China has died due to the infection of this newly developed Hantavirus. Hantavirus has almost all the symptoms of the CoViD-19 and it has created panic all over the world!
Hantavirus or Orthohantavirus is a single-stranded RNA Virus. This virus belongs to the family Hantaviridae and falls under the order of Bunyavirales. The virus was discovered during the time of the Korean War (1950-1953) and was named after the Hantan River in South Korea. This enveloped virus has more than 30 different species, and all of them are popularly known as hantavirus.
Hantavirus is usually spread from rodent’s urine, saliva, or feces. When a human comes in contact with an infected rodent, the virus is spread.
Virology Of Hantavirus
The hantavirus virions (the virus particle that has an outer protein shell, capsid and an inner nucleic acid core- DNA or RNA) is 120-160 nanometers in diameter. It has a lipid bilayer that is 5 mm thick and attached with sugar residues. The inside capsule contains negative-sense RNA.
Mainly the virion is made with 50% protein, 20-30% lipid, and 2-3% carbohydrates.
Spreading Of The Hantavirus
Hantavirus is a relatively new virus family that has been reported by all continents except Australia. In was discovered in the 1950s. There was an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever caused by hantavirus infection among the American and Korean soldiers during the Korean war (1950-1953). More than 3000 troops became ill with kidney failure, shock, and hemorrhagic symptoms. Some real-world facts about Hantavirus:
- In Africa, it caused hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRN) in 2010.
- HFRN was caused in China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Russia. Recently it has been found that a man who was traveling on a bus to Shandong has died in China due to this virus in March 2020.
- In the countries of Europe, it caused the nephropathic epidemic. In this disease, the patient suffers from fever, headache, gastrointestinal problems, improper renal function, and sometimes blurry vision.
- In North America, countries like Canada, the USA, Mexico have suffered from the outbreak of this virus. Canada had 109 cases of hantavirus infection between 1989-2010. In the USA there are 728 cases of hantavirus that have been reported in 2017. This virus causes HCPS or Hantavirus Cardio-Pulmonary Syndrome that severely affects the lungs.
All species of hantavirus have their own specific rodent hosts and the virus spreads through the urine, feces, and saliva and sometimes by the bite of an infected host animal.
Symptoms Of The Hantavirus Infection
Hantavirus mainly causes two types of diseases.
1. HCPS (Hantavirus Cardio-Pulmonary Syndrome)
This fatal pulmonary disease is mostly found in the north, south and central America. The agent of this disease is SNV or Sin Nombre Orthohantavirus and carried by Peromyscus or deer mice.
The symptoms of this illness are flu-like such as cough, fever, headache, lethargy and sometimes muscle pain. In this illness shortness of breath is noticed with rapidly increasing edema (fluid retention in the body). The fatality rate of this condition is high, almost 36%.
2. HFRS (Hantavirus hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome)
The hantavirus is transmitted to humans by droplets and fomite transfer of an infectious rodent excreta. Sigmodon hispidus, cotton rat, is the carrier of this virus.
HFRS develops within 14 days after exposure to infectious substances like urine or saliva. In rare cases, the time can vary up to 8 weeks. One may experience a sudden intense headache, back, and abdominal pain. Individuals may also face fever, chills, nausea and blurry vision, inflammation or redness of the eyes. In some cases, it can cause low blood pressure, acute shock and renal failure that can cause severe fluid retention in the body.
Prevention Of Hantavirus
The best prevention measure one can take against this deadly virus is to stop coming in contact with any rodent species according to the CDC.
Research to make a vaccine for this hantavirus has been in progress for a long time. Though a vaccine named Hantavax in 2016 has undergone a clinical phase 3 trial.
To create a vaccine human neutralizing antibodies have been tested on hamsters, mice, rats, and other rodents. Though there is still no positive feedback.
Treatment Of Hantavirus
To treat this fatal hantavirus, a drug named Ribavirin can be used. It has been found that spontaneous recovery is possible if the patient is treated with this drug.
During this infection, the patient feels acute pulmonary infection and breathing difficulty, and so have to be admitted to the hospital. Sometimes mechanical ventilation is also required for the patients.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Hantavirus
We all are really scared of this pandemic coronavirus. The news of the spread of the hantavirus in this situation is horrible. We know there are still a few questions in your mind. Let’s answer these.
1. What are the first symptoms of hantavirus?
Ans: The symptoms of hantavirus are flu-like. The usual early symptoms are fever, cough, lethargy, muscle pain, etc. In certain severe cases, it can lead to renal failure and acute pulmonary illness.
2. Is the hantavirus curable?
Ans: No, there is still no cure or vaccine for this fatal virus. Patients are usually treated with oxygen and sometimes kept in the ventilation to cure the respiratory distress.
3. Is the hantavirus fatal?
Ans: Not really. But Sin Nombre Hantavirus can cause fatal pulmonary syndrome (HCPS).
4. How long does it take to show signs of hantavirus?
Ans: In most cases, the virus needs almost 2 weeks to show the symptoms, but in rare cases, it can take up to 8 weeks to show the signs or symptoms of the illness.
5. Can you have a mild case of hantavirus?
Ans: Yes, it can show no symptoms or mild symptoms like chills, fever and muscle pains which feels like the common cold.
6. What are the chances of getting hantavirus?
Ans: Well, the chance of getting hantavirus is really low. It is even less likely than being struck by lightning. It may 1 in 13,000,000 persons can get hantavirus from rodents.
7. Is there a test for hantavirus?
Ans: No, currently there are no tests available that can diagnose hantavirus.
8. Who is at risk of hantavirus?
Everyone who comes in contact with rodents regularly.
9. What disinfectant kills hantavirus?
Ans: Killing hantavirus is easy. Normal home cleaning staff like floor cleaners, chlorine bleach can kill hantavirus.
10. How does hantavirus spread?
Ans: Unlike coronavirus, hantavirus is not contagious and it does not spread from human to human.
11. How can you protect yourself from the hantavirus?
Ans: To stop the spreading of the hantavirus you need to control the rodent population in your locality. Remove old cars, toys or cardboard boxes where the rodents usually live. Regularly clean your home. Remember to close all the lids, from food bowls to trash cans.
We know, the entire world is really scared of the novel coronavirus and even the mention of another virus feels like a nightmare. But do not panic, as hantavirus is not a contagious one. Hopefully, it would not be responsible for any more deaths.
Remember to use protective nets and mouse traps around the house. Clean your house with chlorine bleach and water. If you have any pet hamster or guineapig take them to the vet. Wear a protective mask and gloves when cleaning their feces and urine.
Did you find this article helpful? Then share it with your friends and loved ones. Do not panic and stay safe!