Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease in humans caused by infections with a Hantavirus. In the US and Canada, the Sin Nombre Hantavirus is responsible for the majority of cases of HPS. The host of the Sin Nobre virus is the deer mouse, present throughout the western and central United States and Canada.
Cases of HPS have been confirmed elsewhere in the Americas, including Canada, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay.
How Humans Become Infected with HPS
In the United States, deer mice (along with cotton rats and rice rats in the southeastern states and the white-footed mouse in the Northeast) are the reservoir of the virus. The rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings, and saliva. When nesting materials are stirred up, tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air, known as “airborne transmission”. Cases of HPS occur sporadically, usually in rural areas where forests, fields, and farms offer suitable habitat for the virus’s rodent hosts. The peridomestic settings for example are barns, outbuildings, and sheds where people may be exposed to the virus.
To date, in which the virus was transmitted from one person to another, no cases of HPS have been reported in the United States.
Can pets transmit HPS to humans?
The Hantavirus that cause HPS in the United States are not known to be transmitted by any types of animals other than certain species of rodents. Dogs and cats are not known to carry hantavirus; however, they may bring infected rodents into contact with people if they catch such animals and carry them home. Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and rodents from pet stores are not know to carry the virus.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms may develop between 1 and 8 weeks after exposure to fresh urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups (thighs, hips, back and sometimes shoulders). Other symptoms may be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Late symptoms 4 to 10 days after the initial phase of illness may include coughing and shortness of breath.
Eliminate or minimize contact with rodents in our home, workplace or campsite. Seal up gaps in your home or garage. If you live in an area where the carrier rodents are know to live, try to keep your home, vacation place, workplace, or campsite clean.
There is no specific treatment, cure or vaccine for hantavirus infection. However, if infected individuals are recognized early and receive medical care they may do better. Therefore if you have been around rodents and have symptoms, see your primary care physician or provider immediately. Be sure to inform your doctor or provider that you have been around rodents, this will alert them to look closely for any rodent-carried disease, such as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome.