What is hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)?
HPS disease is a rare but extremely serious illness of the lungs caused by a family of viruses known as hantavirus. In 1993, the first United States cases were diagnosed in the southwestern part of the country. Isolated cases of HPS are now being diagnosed in other parts of the country and several different types of hantavirus have been identified.
Who can get HPS? Where is the virus found?
Persons who have exposure to wild rodents or rodent-infested areas are at highest risk of getting HPS. Hantavirus is carried by infected rodents, primarily deer mice in the southwest US, cotton and rice rats in the south, and the white-footed mouse in the northeastern coastal area. The virus, which is found in the animal's urine, saliva and droppings, gets in the air as mist or dust when droppings or nests are stirred up.
How is the virus spread?
The main way that HPS is spread to humans is by breathing air contaminated with rodent urine, droppings or saliva. It can also be transmitted by handling rodents or by touching your nose or mouth after handling contaminated materials. A rodent's bite can also spread the virus. There is no evidence that cats, dogs, farm animals, or insects transmit the disease to humans. You cannot get HPS from another person.
What are the symptoms of HPS disease?
The initial symptoms are fever (101-104F),fatigue, and muscle aches. Other common symptoms that may occur are headache, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Later symptoms of HPS are coughing and shortness of breath caused by fluid build-up in the lungs. These breathing problems start 4-10 days after the first symptoms and can progress to respiratory failure and sometimes death. In some cases of HPS, the kidneys and other organs will stop working.
How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
The symptoms can start as soon as one week or as long as six weeks after exposure, but they usually start about two weeks after exposure.
What is the treatment for HPS disease?
At the present time, there is no specific treatment for HPS. Early intensive hospital care can save lives.
How can hantavirus infection be prevented?
Where can I obtain more information on hantavirus pulmonary syndrome?
Additional information on the hantaviruses and on hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/index.htm.
If you need information on cleaning rodent-infested areas and rodent-proofing buildings, refer to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome - United States: Updated Recommendations for Risk Reduction, available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/rr/rr5109.pdf.