Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

About … Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

What is Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)?

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome refers to an acute respiratory disease caused by the Sin Nombre virus. The disease was first identified as being caused by the Sin Nombe virus in the four corners area (where borders of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado join) in 1993. There is evidence of people dying of the disease at least back to 1959. Indiana has had two cases of hatavirus pulmonary syndrome identified since 1993. There are several other viruses that cause similar disease in the United States and in South America

How is HPS spread?

The reservoir of Sin Nombre virus has been identified primarily as the deer mouse. Cotton rats, rice rats, and white footed mice each carry a virus that can cause HPS. These rodents shed the virus in their saliva and urine. Transmission to people occurs when:

  1. When people sweep or otherwise clean areas were rodent urine and saliva are present small droplets are “aerosolized” and inhaled.
  2. When bitten by a rodent and contaminate saliva enters the wound.
  3. Items contaminated with rodent urine or saliva are handled and then hands touch the nose or mouth prior to washing hands.
  4. Food contaminated by urine, dropping or saliva from rodents.

What are the symptoms of HPS?

Individuals with HPS exhibit fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, nausa, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, rapid difficult breathing, cough, rapid heartbeat, and sometime low blood pressure. The incubation time is thought to be 1 to 5 weeks.

How do I know if I have HPS?

You cannot tell without seeing your doctor. Your physician will evaluate clinical symptoms, conduct a thorough physical examination, chest x-rays, and laboratory testing to confirm whether or not you have HPS

How is HPS treated?

There is not a definitive treatment for HPS. Physicians provide supportive care in hospitals until the body’s immune system overcomes the infection.

How is HPS prevented?

HPS is prevented by taking steps to reduce the exposure to contaminated mouse urine and saliva. Steps that can be taken are:

  1. Clean up around the outside of your home to remove harborages and breeding sites for rodents.
  2. Rodent proof your house, garage, and other out buildings. Keep bird and pet food covered to prevent their use as food by rodents. Clean up spills immediately. Keep all foods in rodent proof containers. Keep garbage in covered containers. Seal all rodent entry holes ¼ inch or larger with wire screening or other rodent proof materials.
  3. If you see evidence of rodents dropping or urine, clean the area with a “wet technique”. Use a household disinfectant on the contaminated surfaces prior to trying to sweep or mop the area. Set traps. Use EPA approved rodent poisons following label directions.
  4. Be sure to wash hand after handling or cleaning possibly contaminated surfaces. Wear a mask if sweeping areas where rodents have likely been.
  5. Increasing ventilation in rooms where there is evidence of rodents having been present prior to cleaning is also helpful in reducing the amount of virus present and reduces the risk of transmission.