Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is an infectious disease characterized by flu-like symptoms that can progress rapidly to potentially life-threatening breathing problems.
Several types of hantaviruses can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. They are carried by several types of rodents, particularly the deer mouse. You become infected primarily by breathing air infected with hantaviruses that are shed in rodent urine and droppings.
Because treatment options are limited, the best protection against hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is to avoid rodents and their habitats.
Causes of Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
The virus is carried by rodents and deer mice. It is present in the urine and faeces of these animals. However, it causes no form of illness or symptoms in the animals it infects. When a human comes in contact with the airborne virus or contaminated dust from mice droppings or nest, it can lead to an infection. Humans may also come in contact with contaminated dust when cleaning their houses, sheds, roofs as well as an area that was closed or empty for a really long time.
Preventive measures for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome can be prevented by avoiding contact with rodent droppings and urine. In order to do so, one should take steps to eliminate rodent infestations in and around their houses. One should call an exterminator or the local health department to take care of the rodent infection and control. When cleaning droppings around the house, one should wear disposable gloves and mask. One must soak the dead mice, nests and droppings in a solution of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach). Dispose off the disposable gloves, masks and clothing. Wash hands with a disinfectant properly and thoroughly.
In the first 3 to 7 days of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, many of its symptoms resemble those of a severe cold, the flu, or a gastrointestinal disease.
- Muscle aches in the large muscle groups (i.e., back, thighs, shoulders)
After the first few days, respiratory difficulties
begin abruptly and can progress rapidly. People with the infection will develop a condition called adult respiratory distress syndrome
(ARDS), in which the lungs lose their ability to move oxygen to the blood. Patients may develop a cough and shortness of the breath. Very quickly every organ of the body is affected.
Specific treatment options for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome are limited. But the prognosis improves with early recognition, immediate hospitalization and adequate support for breathing.
- Supportive therapy: People with severe cases need immediate treatment in an intensive care unit. Assisted respiration, whether through intubation or mechanical ventilation, can help with breathing and ward off pulmonary edema. Intubation involves placing a breathing tube through your nose, mouth or trachea to help keep your airways open and functioning.
- Blood oxygenation: In extremely severe cases of pulmonary distress, you'll need a method called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation to help ensure you retain a sufficient supply of oxygen. This involves continuously pumping your blood through a machine that removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen. The oxygenated blood is then returned to your body.