The hantavirus is a group of viruses carried by rodents that causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Hantavirus is capable of infecting both humans and rodents, but rodents do not seem to get sick. Instead, humans end up with severe symptoms and can be deadly.
The virus enters the body via inhalation of the virus from infected bodily fluids by rodents. Remember that the virus tends to affect the lungs, heart and kidneys by reducing their functions. It can also enter the bloodstream where it spreads, replicates and cause further damage to the organs.
As a bodily response to fight the virus, inflammation is triggered. The combination of the virus infecting different organs and the ensuing inflammation by the body results to significant bodily damage.
Indications of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
The condition is characterized by 3 phases.
First phase (incubation phase)
The virus is inhaled into the lungs and ingested by the immune cells and later spreads via the blood to other organs. This phase typically lasts for 2-3 weeks and there are no symptoms.
This phase lasts 2-8 days with the following symptoms:
- Bodily aches
- Dry cough
- Abdominal pain
In this phase, heart failure can occur while the seeping blood vessels leads to the buildup of fluid in the lungs, bleeding and failure of the heart to pump. This combination can lead to shock, failure of various organs and even death.
This phase includes alternating periods of high and low production of urine.
In the final phase, the individual who could survive have improving symptoms and organ function starts to recover. Full recovery is achieved over several weeks while the symptoms settle as rapidly as its onset.
What are the key symptoms to watch out for?
- Fever higher than 101 degrees F, body aches, chills and headaches
- New rash
- Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- Dry cough followed by rapid onset of difficulty breathing
Even today, there is no cure for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The management is usually supportive which includes oxygen therapy, medications to support the blood pressure and fluid replacement.
Due to the high risk for rapid deterioration of the respiratory function, individuals suspected with the condition must be taken to the nearest healthcare facility so that he/she is placed under intensive care monitoring along with mechanical ventilation and kidney dialysis.
In some instances, antiviral drugs such as ribavirin is used to manage other strains of hantavirus. Nevertheless, there is limited evidence of their effectiveness.