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Hantavirus: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hantavirus

Hantavirus causes serious infections of the lungs and kidneys. The lung infection is more common than the kidney infection and also known as ‘hantavirus pulmonary syndrome’. Hantavirus infection is spread by rodents and no human to human transmission is yet observed.

Hantavirus: Incidence, age and sex

Hantavirus infection is rarely encountered in the general population and may be seen in any age group. However, hikers and campers are more prone to hantavirus infection.

Signs and symptoms of hantavirus: Diagnosis

The clinical features of hantavirus infection begin with generalised symptoms like fever, chills, exhaustion and muscle ache. Individuals may also complain of headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. The condition usually worsens within 2-3 days progressing to difficulty in breathing. This may progress to rapid, shallow breathing which is a sign of impending respiratory failure. Affected individuals in advanced case may show bluish discolouration of skin also termed as cyanosis. This signifies markedly reduced transport of oxygenated blood to body tissues. This condition is serious and warrants immediate medical attention.

Certain tests like complete blood count, CT scans of the chest along with history and examination may help in detecting the condition. Serological testing of hantavirus may help in confirming the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of hantavirus

Hantavirus lung infection is caused by Sin Nombre virus which belongs to the family hantavirus. This virus is transmitted to humans from urine, saliva and droppings of contaminated rodents. It can spread by inhalation or direct contact. The infection cannot be transmitted from human to human. This virus affects the lung tissues and damages the tiny capillaries in them resulting in leakage of blood into lung tissues.

Preventive measures like maintaining cleanliness in homes, avoiding rodent dens and avoiding camping in areas of rodent droppings may help in keeping this serious infection at bay. Vaccination for hantavirus infection is not available at present.

Hantavirus: Complications

Hantavirus infection, if not detected and managed timely may lead to multiple organ failure including lungs, kidneys and heart. This may prove to be fatal, resulting in death.

Hantavirus: Treatment

Unfortunately there is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection. Supportive care along with close monitoring of all vital signs is the key to management. Oxygen therapy has proven to be beneficial in some individuals. However severe cases may require ventilatory support. The prognosis of disease usually depends upon the degree of severity.