|17 October 2008|
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 (e.g. Seoul virus, Hantaan virus) and is characterised by abrupt onset of fever, severe abdominal or lower back pain, varying degrees of haemorrhagic manifestations, 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 GI symptoms followed by the abrupt onset of respiratory distress and hypotension. The illness progresses rapidly to severe respiratory failure and shock.
Mode of Transmission
Rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings, and saliva. It is believed that Hantavirus is mainly transmitted to people by inhaling aerosols of rodent 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 nose and mouth after contacting articles contaminated with infected rodent's urine, droppings or saliva.
Early symptoms include fever, fatigue and muscle aches - especially at shoulder, back and / or thigh. There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills and abdominal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. In the HFRS, there may be severe renal impairment while the chest is mostly as affected in the HPS that patients may have severe respiratory distress.
Limited information shows that symptoms may develop between few days to 6 weeks after exposure.
There is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection. However, it is better for the infected individuals to see the doctor and receive treatment earlier.
- 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 at least once a day.
- Keep premises, especially refuse rooms and stairways, clean. Prohibit accumulation of articles.
- Inspect regularly all flowerbeds and pavements for rodent infestation.
- Avoid the following high risk activities to reduce rodent contact
- handling dead or trapped rodents with bare hands; cleaning or entering closed, rarely used rodent infested structures; disturbing rodent excreta or nests; keeping captive wild rodents as pets; handling equipment or machinery that has been in storage, leaning animal shelter area, hand plowing or planting; sleeping or camping on the ground, and living in a home with an increased density of mice in or around the home.
- Travellers to places with reported cases of Hantavirus infection should avoid visiting or living in places with poor environmental hygiene. Do not contact rodents or their excreta.