Type: Viral

Geography: Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia

Cases Per Year: 150,000

Fatality Rate: up to 15% (HFRS), 38% (HPS)

First Discovered: 1950s in Korea

Hantaviruses are spread by rodents and transmitted to people via aerosolized virus that is shed in urine, feces, saliva, and bites from an infected host. Hantaviruses in the Americas are known as “New World” hantaviruses and may cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), while those found in Europe and Asia are known as “Old World” hantaviruses and may cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).

HPS is a severe, sometimes fatal respiratory disease. Its incubation time is between 1 and 8 weeks. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches of large muscle groups. About half of HPS patients experience headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems. 4 to 10 days following the initial phase, late symptoms including coughing and shortness of breath appear.

HFRS symptoms usually develop within 1 to 2 weeks after exposure. Initial symptoms include intense headaches, back and abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision. Individuals may also have flushing of the face, eye inflammation, or a rash. Later symptoms include low blood pressure, acute shock, vascular leakage, and acute kidney failure. Complete recovery can take up to a few months.

Photo: Hantavirus – Electron micrograph.