Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare but potentially serious disease. People exposed to rodents-infested environments are at the greatest risk for infections.
Rodents, such as deer mice and cotton rats, can carry hantaviruses. Their urine, feces and dander from nests can become airborne, spreading the disease in poorly ventilated areas. People can become infected when they inhale this polluted material.
Symptoms can develop from a few days to up to six weeks after infection.
Typical symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, cough and headache. After several days, severe lung distress develops. The lungs may fill with fluid and victims may die of respiratory failure and shock.
The best way to prevent hantavirus is to control rodents both inside and outside the home. You should take precautions when exposed to rodent infested environments.
There have not been any reports of repeat cases of hantavirus. However, it is not known how long immunity lasts following infection. It is also not known whether infection with one virus protects against other similar viruses.
There is no known treatment for the hantavirus. Respiratory care is provided for patients in severe respiratory distress. The death rate from severe illness is 40 to 50%. Recovery of normal lung function may take weeks to months.