What is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2018
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Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a very serious disease. This infectious disease causes a person to display symptoms that are similar to those caused by the flu. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually resolve itself like the flu may. Instead, it rapidly progresses to causing breathing difficulties, which can be fatal.

It is the first stage of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome that resembles the flu. Patients experience fever, chills, body aches, and headaches. A person with this disease may also develop nausea and vomiting, pain in the abdominal area, dizziness, and diarrhea. Rapid breathing and heartbeat may join these symptoms, and the lungs may make a rattling sound. At this stage, the disease may be mistaken for another illness, such as pneumonia.

The next stage of the disease is called the cardiopulmonary stage, which is very serious. At this stage, a person may have a productive cough, and his lung capillaries may become strained and weak; they may also start to leak. A patient may become short of breath and/or experience respiratory failure during this stage.


This dangerous second stage of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is also marked by problems with a person’s blood gases. The patient’s blood may have too little oxygen and too much carbon dioxide; acid may build up in his blood. He may develop acute respiratory distress, which means the lungs have a difficult time moving oxygen to the blood. His organs may fail, and his blood pressure may drop too low. His heart may develop an abnormally fast or slow rhythm as well.

There are different types of hantaviruses, and various rodents carry them. Some rodents are more likely to carry certain types of hantavirus. The deer mouse typically carries the Sin Nombre. This is the type of hantavirus that usually causes disease in the United States. Another type of hantavirus causes a condition called haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome; it is more likely to be found in Europe and Asia and is often caused by the striped field mouse.

Usually, a person contracts this disease by inhaling it accidentally. For example, a person might inhale airborne hantavirus from the droppings and urine of an infected rodent. This may happen when a she is cleaning a room and sweeps fecal particles into the air unknowingly or moves furniture, throwing dust and infected particles into the air. Sometimes people contract hantavirus after being bitten by rodents, but this is rare. Another rare method of transmission involves consuming food contaminated with droppings.

There aren’t many options for treating hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, but a person’s chance of survival are improved when the disease is diagnosed early. A person with this illness may need hospitalization and treatments to keep him breathing. Sometimes a machine is used to add oxygen to the patient’s blood and take carbon dioxide out of it.



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