There was a scare of another disease outbreak in March this year when a person in China’s Yunnan Province who tested positive for Hantavirus was reported dead. Although the authorities at first stated that Hantavirus wasn’t something that should have Americans worried, environmental health authorities in California in the first week of July made a public announcement that they had found rodents that tested positive for the virus.
What is Hantavirus?
As per the Centers of Disease Control, hantaviruses are a group of viruses, spread mostly by rodents. The virus can cause the hantavirus disease which exhibits varied symptoms in infected people across the world.
In the Americas, this family of viruses is referred to as ‘New World’ hantaviruses. These viruses may cause HPS (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome) disease. With a mortality rate of 38%, the disease can be fatal.
In Europe and Asia, different variants of these viruses have been found. Referred to as ‘Old World’ hantaviruses, they can cause the HFRS (hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome) disease.
Is Hantavirus Contagious?
Different strains of hantaviruses found in different regions exhibit different characteristics.
While the North American strain of this virus does not spread from person to person, some outbreaks in South America proved the virus strain found here could get transmitted from one (infected) person to another.
Rare instances of person-to-person transmission of hantavirus have been found in Argentina and Chile in the past.
According to the CDC, illnesses resulting from strains of hantaviruses found in the U.S. cannot be transmitted from one infected individual to another.
Which Rodents in the United States Carry Hantavirus?
Cotton rat, deer mouse, rice rat, and white-footed mouse are known to carry hantavirus in the U.S.
Among these, the deer mouse is most likely to carry the virus. This rodent is found all over North America.
Rice rats are mostly found in the southeastern states while white-footed mice are most common in northeastern states.
Hantavirus in California
Health officials earlier this year had collected four wild mice as part of a regular monitoring exercise. These rodents included two California mice, one deer mouse, and one brush mouse. These rodents later tested positive for hantavirus.
According to the latest statistics available with the CDC, 61 cases of hantavirus infection had been found in California as of January 2017. The figure stood at 728 states for the U.S. The data has been compiled since 1993
Some new cases have been reported in California and neighboring regions since January 2017. In December 2019, a person was reported dead due to hantavirus in California.
Should A California Resident Be Worried About Hantavirus?
According to public health authorities, the risk of anyone catching hantavirus in California is low. But, you never know when the odds are stacked against you.
As long as you avoid contact with rodents, you do not need to worry about hantavirus in the U.S.
It is advisable to know how to protect yourself and your family members from hantavirus as well as other diseases spread by rodents, whether they are found in homes or in woodlands, deserts, or marshes near urban settlements.
How People Get Infected With Hantavirus
Hantavirus typically spreads from rodents to humans through airborne transmission. Tiny droplets containing the virus can get into the air or enter a person’s respiratory system when they directly touch a rodent or stir up their urine, droppings, nesting material, etc.
Scientists are still studying if touching one’s mouth or nose after touching rodent droppings, urine, etc. can lead to an infection. There’s no clarity on the exact incubation period of the virus.
The virus can also spread if a rodent bites a person but the CDC says this type of virus transmission is rare.
What Are the Symptoms of Hantavirus Infection?
An infected person shows symptoms resembling fever and flu such as body aches and headaches.
Early signs generally include muscle aches, fatigue, and fever.
Gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting may also be there.
Initial symptoms of the disease resulting from hantavirus infection are often difficult to distinguish from pneumonia and influenza.
Be sure to keep mice and rats out of your home. Instead of waiting for a rodent infestation to happen and get worse, you can take preventive measures such as rodent-proofing your house.
Rats are already becoming an epidemic in LA.