November 27, 2015
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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

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Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) facts

  • Hantaviruses are RNA viruses that are transmitted to humans by rodents.
  • Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a disease in which, in the late stage of infection with a hantavirus subtype, patients experience lung congestion, fluid accumulation in the lungs, and shortness of breath. Early symptoms (fatigue, fever, muscle aches) are nonspecific.
  • Hantavirus was first identified in an outbreak in 1993 in the "Four Corners" area of the southwestern U.S. and found to be transmitted to humans by rodent urine, feces, saliva, and by airborne particles containing these items. The 2012 outbreak at Yosemite National Park was due to hantavirus transfer to humans by deer mice. Human-to-human transmission of hantavirus in the Americas has not been documented.
  • Hantavirus is not contagious (in North America).
  • In South America, some investigators suggest hantavirus there may be contagious.
  • The incubation period for hantavirus is about one to five weeks.
  • About 38% of hantavirus infections are lethal (mortality rate); specialists usually care for infected patients.
  • HPS is caused by hantaviruses that cause lung capillaries to leak fluid into the lung tissue.
  • HPS is usually diagnosed presumptively by the patient's lung symptoms or the patient's association with rodents or the patient's probable contact with rodent-contaminated airborne dust; chest X-rays provide additional evidence, but definitive diagnosis is usually done at a specialized lab or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • There is no specific treatment of HPS; patients are usually treated in an intensive-care facility and often require respiratory support (intubation and mechanical ventilation).
  • Risk factors are any association with rodents and their airborne body excretions.
  • If the HPS patient survives, there are usually no long-term complications.
  • Prevention of HPS centers on avoidance of rodent contamination; there is no vaccine available to prevent hantavirus infection or HPS.
Picture of Sin Nombre hantavirus particles
Figure 1: Picture of Sin Nombre hantavirus particles; SOURCE: CDC/D. Loren Ketai, MD
Chest X-ray of a patient with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)
Figure 2: Chest X-ray of a patient with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS); SOURCE: CDC/Brian W.J. Mahy, PhD; Luanne H. Elliott, MS
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/22/2015


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