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Definition

Hantavirus is a rare but serious infection. It can damage the lungs, heart, and other organs. It can be fatal. It needs to be treated right away.

Virus Attacking a Cell
Virus

In a viral infection, the virus uses your cells to grow and reproduce, making you ill in the process.

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Causes

Hantavirus infection is caused by a virus. People get the virus from contact with infected rodents or the rodents' urine or droppings. Hantavirus infection cannot be passed between humans.

Risk Factors

Hantavirus is found in North, Central and South America. It is most common in the southwestern U.S.. Other things that raise the risk are:

  • Having rodents at home or at work
  • Outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping
  • Living in rural areas

Symptoms

Symptoms of hantavirus infection happen in stages.

There is a stage of flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle aches and headache
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Belly pain

About 4 to 10 days later, serious symptoms begin, such as:

  • Problems breathing
  • Fast heartbeat

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include blood tests and chest x-rays. Testing will confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection. Treatment often involves intensive care in the hospital. Care will focus on easing symptoms and breathing support. It may include:

  • Oxygen support
  • Fluids
  • Mechanical ventilation—a machine that helps the person breathe
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)—a machine that adds oxygen to the blood

Prevention

The risk of hantavirus infection may be reduced by:

  • Preventing rodent infestations in homes and buildings
  • Cleaning and disinfecting areas where rodents have been
  • Using proper protection during rodent cleanup
RESOURCES:

American Lung Association
http://www.lung.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
http://www.ccohs.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Avšič-Županc T, Saksida A, et al. Hantavirus infections. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2019;21S:e6-e16.

Cleaning up after rodents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/cleaning/index.html. Accessed April 1, 2021.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hantavirus-pulmonary-syndrome. Accessed April 1, 2021.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/hps. Accessed April 1, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 4/1/2021