There are two main groups of diseases, namely the Haemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome and the Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome which are caused by the Hantaviruses mainly carried by rodents.
Haemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS)
An acute zoonotic disease caused by the Old World Hantaviruses and is characterised by abrupt onset of fever, headache, severe abdominal or lower back pain, hypotension and renal failure.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
An acute zoonotic disease caused by the New World Hantaviruses and is characterised by fever, myalgias and gastrointestinal symptoms followed by the abrupt onset of respiratory distress and hypotension. The illness may progress rapidly to severe respiratory failure and shock. The mortality rate is around 38%.
Mode of transmission
Hantavirus is mainly transmitted through direct contact with the faeces, saliva or urine of infected rodents or by inhalation of the virus in rodent aerosolised excreta.
There are other ways rodents may spread hantavirus to people:
- Being bitten by infected rodents
- Eating food contaminated with infected rodent's urine, droppings or saliva
- Touching the eyes, nose and mouth after contacting articles contaminated with an infected rodent's urine, droppings or saliva
Human to human transmission is extremely rare.
Early symptoms include fever, fatigue and muscle aches - especially at shoulder, back and thigh. There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. In HFRS, there may be severe renal impairment while the chest is mostly affected in HPS patients who may have severe respiratory distress.
Symptoms may start to develop around 1 - 8 weeks after exposure.
There is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection. However, it is important for patients to seek early medical management.
- Eliminate sources of food and nesting places for rodents in our living environment.
- Store food properly and handle pet food carefully so that it will not become food for rodents. Store all refuse and food remnants in dustbins with well-fitted cover. Dustbins must be emptied daily.
- Keep premises, especially refuse rooms and stairways, clean. Prohibit accumulation of articles.
- Inspect regularly all flowerbeds and pavements for rodent infestation.
- Avoid high risk activities below to reduce rodent contact:
- Handling live or dead rodents with bare hands; entering rodent infested space; handling rodent excreta or nests; keeping wild rodents as pets; handling equipment or machinery kept in areas found with rodents, hand plowing or planting; lying on the ground, and living in residence frequented by rodents.
- Travellers to places with reported cases of Hantavirus infection should avoid visiting or living in places with poor environmental hygiene and avoid contacting rodents or their excreta. They should take precautions to exclude rodents from accommodation and to protect all food from contamination by rodents.