Hantavirus treatment involves hospitalization of the patient and providing respiration support, till the condition resolves on its own. Learn more about hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, its treatment as well as prevention by going through the article given below.
There are many types of diseases that are caused by nasty viruses. There are certain viruses that can spread to humans from their primary animal host. One such virus is the hantavirus that can cause a very serious lung infection in humans. This virus infects deer mice and other wild rodents and can spread to humans.
About Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
It is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs. This serious infection can prove to be a fatal infection. It was a previously unknown infection in humans that was discovered in 1993 by scientists in New Mexico. The virus naturally occurs in many regions of North and South America. It is an airborne virus and can affect any person of any age. However, it can be easily prevented, only if one is aware of the preventive measures.
Hantaviruses are negative-sense RNA viruses. They belong to the virus family of Bunyaviridae. They are a newly discovered virus genus and caused an outbreak in 1993. This outbreak occurred in the Four Corners region of southwestern United States. The viral agent was called the Sin Nombre virus (SNV), that is, nameless virus. It was traced down to a rodent host and since then many other viruses along with hantavirus and Sin Nombre virus have been identified.
The virus is carried by rodents and deer mice. It is present in the urine and feces of these animals. However, it causes no form of illness or symptoms in the animals it infects. When a human comes in contact with the airborne virus or contaminated dust from mice droppings or nest, it can lead to an infection. Humans may also come in contact with contaminated dust when cleaning their houses, sheds, roofs as well as an area that was closed or empty for a really long time. This disease is commonly seen affected hikers and campers of the US national parks. These people are most likely to sleep on forest floors or place their sleeping backs in a musty cabin. Thus, they can be exposed to the droppings and contaminated soil by wild rodents.
People infected with hantavirus suffer from atypical symptoms that last for 3 to 5 days. These symptoms include: headache, chills, dizziness, dry cough, nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal upsets. More than half of the patients suffer from diarrhea, malaise and lightheadedness. Apart from these symptoms, one may even suffer from shortness of breath, dizziness, arthralgia, back pain, chest pain and excessive sweating. During this time, it is very rarely correctly diagnosed. This is because the cough and tachypnea generally develop after about 7 days. When the patient develops cardiopulmonary symptoms, their condition worsens rapidly. Then, they are hospitalized and kept on a 24 hour ventilation. This is because their lungs are rapidly filled with fluid and thus, suffer from breathing problems. Patients develop breathing problems and may die within a few hours. Death is due to respiratory failure or shock. In some cases, death may occur within 1 to 2 days of developing breathing trouble. It has been found about 4 in 10 patients suffering from HPS never survive.
There is no specific treatment available as of now. The only treatment available is placing the patient on supportive care. The doctor may advise broad-spectrum antibiotics as well as antipyretics and analgesia. Patients are usually placed in an intensive care unit (ICU) for close monitoring and provision of respiratory support. Apart from this, there is not much that can be done to treat the patient. In some cases, the doctor may advise oxygen therapy for the treatment.
The infection can be prevented by avoiding contact with rodent droppings and urine. In order to do so, one should take steps to eliminate rodent infestations in and around their houses. One should call an exterminator or the local health department to take care of the rodent infection and control. When cleaning droppings around the house, one should wear disposable gloves and an N95 disposable mask. One should soak the dead mice, nests and droppings in a 1:10 solution of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach). Dispose off the disposable gloves, masks and clothing. Wash hands with a disinfectant properly and thoroughly.
As you can see, there is no cure or specific treatment for this fatal disease. Thus, prevention is the only key to avoid hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.