Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied disease syndromes in people worldwide. Infection with any hantavirus can produce hantavirus disease in people. Hantaviruses in the Americas are known as “New World” hantaviruses and may cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Other hantaviruses, known as “Old World” hantaviruses, are found mostly in Europe and Asia and may cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).
Each hantavirus stereotype has a specific rodent host species and is spread to people via an aerosolized virus that is shed in urine, feces, and saliva, and less frequently by a bite from an infected host. The most important hantavirus in the United States that can cause HPS is the Sin Nombre virus, spread by the deer mouse.
The hantavirus cannot spread from person to person like COVID-19. This makes it very difficult to spread the virus far from the point of the original infection. Instead of human spread, rodents are the main culprits. Hantaviruses live their life-cycle in rodents but apparently do no harm; the viruses multiply and shed in the rodent’s urine, feces, and saliva.
Hantavirus outbreaks in the US cause different serious symptoms from those in Europe and Asia. In the Americas, serious hantavirus infections usually take the form of HPS, a severe respiratory infection. HPS is found mainly in the Americas (Canada, U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Panama, and others). However, in Russia, China, Korea, Western Europe and elsewhere, serious infections develop into HFRS (Hemorrhagic Fever with renal syndrome)
Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal. There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
The risk of HPS can be reduced by inactivating hantaviruses in the environment by using household detergent and 1.5 cups of bleach per gallon of water to wipe or spray the potentially infected area and while minimizing contact by wearing gloves and a mask.