Hantavirus Disease Symptoms – Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Treatment and Prevention
What Are Symptoms of Hantavirus? | Hantavirus Disease Symptoms.
Since HPS affects a small population, the “incubation” period is unknown. In most recorded cases, symptoms develop 1 to 8 weeks after exposure. Early symptoms, such as fever, dry cough, body aches, headaches, diarrhea and abdominal pain, are similar to many other viral illnesses. This may prevent an HPS diagnosis before the illness progresses.
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If the initial symptoms are not connected to hantavirus exposure and are left untreated, late symptoms will onset rapidly. These symptoms include cough and shortness of breath, which are the result of leaky blood vessels and lead to collection of fluid in the lungs, bleeding and failure of the heart to pump. The combination of these changes can lead to shock, failure of several organs and even death.
With this in mind, key symptoms and signs to watch for (with a history of rodent exposure) include:
- Fever greater than 101◦F, chills, body aches, headaches
- Nausea and vomiting and abdominal pain
- A dry cough followed by rapid onset of breathing difficulty
How Hantavirus Is Diagnosed
Diagnosing HPS can be challenging because early symptoms mimic the flu. There are currently no tests used to diagnose HPS which is why a history of rodent exposure accompanied by fever and fatigue is a strong indicator of infection. If you are concerned that you may have been exposed, you should see your doctor immediately.
When to See Your Doctor
If you have unexplained fever, body aches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, dry cough or severe breathing difficulty, you should see a healthcare provider. This is especially true if you live in the southwestern US and are exposed to large rodent populations, their nesting material and waste.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Treatment and Prevention
How Hantavirus Is Treated
There is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection. However, if the virus is caught early and the patient receives medical care in an intensive care unit (ICU), they will likely improve. Treatment in the ICU is mostly supportive and may include intubation and oxygen therapy, fluid replacement and use of medications to support blood pressure.
Sometimes antiviral drugs, such as ribavirin, are used to treat other strains of hantavirus and associated infections. However, no large trials have proven them to work, but doctors may try in very severe cases.
Recovery can be slow, and patients often complain about weakness, fatigue and impaired exercise tolerance.
The best approach to HPS is preventing it by minimizing exposure to rodents.
- Seal up (using cement or other patching material) holes or cracks through which rodents may gain entry to your home or work environment. Remember, they can get through openings that are much smaller than you may think.
- Identify potential nesting sites and carefully clean up debris, clear bushes and trap rodents to remove them. When cleaning up, wear protective gear and be extremely careful not to stir up the virus by sweeping waste and debris. Instead, wet down dead rodents and areas where rodents have been with alcohol, household disinfectants or bleach before using a towel to remove the debris. Then mop the area with disinfectant.
- Open and aerate any closed rodent-infested spaces before entering them. Wear a respirator when cleaning buildings with heavy rodent infestations.
Heavily infested areas should be brought to the attention of the relevant state or federal health officials before cleaning.