Hantavirus – an emerging zoonotic disease transmitted by rodents

Kolkata, Jan 16: Hantavirus (HV) is an emerging zoonotic disease transmitted by rodents such as mice and rats.

It is characterized by symptoms of fever, myalgia, and gastrointestinal complaints, followed by sudden onset of respiratory distress and hypotension.

The agent responsible for the disease comes from the Hantavirus genus, from the Bunyaviridae family. It takes its name from the Hantaan river in South Korea, where it was originally discovered in 1978.

The most common clinical form of the disease in the region is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) which can lead to death. Symptoms of HPS may develop up to 42 days -and in some cases up to 56 days- after exposure , making it difficult to identify the exact source of infection.

The disease was initially detected in the Region in 1993, when an epidemic led to 27 cases in the southeast area of the United States. However, retro-analysis of the disease reveals cases from as early as 1959.

Cases of human hantavirus infection usually occur in rural areas (forests, fields, farms, etc.), where rodents hosting the virus may be found. However, transmission may also occur in urban areas. The virus is contracted through the inhalation of rodent droppings (urine and feces) and saliva. Only some types of rat and mouse can transmit the virus that causes HPS to people.

The chance of exposure to hantaviruses is greatest when individuals work, play, or live in enclosed spaces where there is an active rodent infestation. Human infection does not appear to be limited to a particular age, race, ethnic group, or gender.

It is unknown if direct transmission can occur when larger particles come into contact with ocular, nasal, or oropharyngeal mucous membranes. However, small skin breaks and rodent bites are probably effective but uncommon routes of human infection.

The Insides Speak