The coronavirus pandemic has had everyone on edge since it appeared last December in Wuhan, China, causing every news story of any other mysterious ailment to raise alarm.
The latest case is news of the death of a man in China's Yunnan province after contracting the hantavirus.
The death occurred after the man boarded a worker charter bus that left from Shandong province, the Chinese newspaper Global Times reported. As a result, 32 more people had to undergo a test to detect if they had contracted the condition, which is known to be transmitted mainly by the faeces and waste of rats.
Can you repeat the case of the coronavirus with the hantavirus?
To answer this and other questions, we consulted Dr. Daniel L. Campos, who in addition to being a renowned expert in anti-aging treatments, is also a specialist in advanced practice, primary care for adults and the elderly.
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What is hantavirus?
The hantavirus belongs to the bunyaviridae family and is divided into two groups of hantaviruses from the Old World and the New World. There are many strains of hantavirus that occur globally and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infection with this virus primarily causes two types of human disease. One presenting with respiratory syndrome and the other with hemorrhagic fever and kidney failure.
Is it true that you can get it from having contact with rats? Where does it come from?
It is true, the hantavirus can be contracted by having contact with urine, faeces and saliva of rodents, such as rats, or in case of an animal bite. But contagion cases are extremely rare. The first strain of this virus was recorded during the Korean War when more than 3,000 American soldiers were infected and killed 190 of them, so hantavirus infection is not a new disease.
Is it similar to the coronavirus?
No, there are several things that differentiate hantavirus from coronavirus. But the biggest difference is that they are two different virus families and that contrary to the coronavirus, the hantavirus does not spread from person to person. This makes the chances of the hantavirus becoming a pandemic like the coronavirus virtually impossible.
Who is it attacking? Who is more prone?
Anyone who frequents places where rodents like rats can potentially be exposed. This virus can be very aggressive for the body, but I insist that the cases registered in developed countries such as the United States are minimal, which makes contracting this virus very unlikely for most people.
What are your symptoms?
Symptoms of hantavirus infection usually take 1 to 2 weeks to develop, but can appear up to 8 weeks after being exposed to the virus. People with respiratory type hantavirus infection, which is the most common in the United States, usually present with nonspecific symptoms such as general malaise and fever lasting 3-5 days. Additionally, other initial symptoms include headache, chills, dizziness, dry cough, nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Approximately half of all patients report general malaise, diarrhea, and lightheadedness, with less frequent reports of joint pain, back pain, and abdominal pain.
Initial symptoms of hemorrhagic fever and kidney failure, which are the reported cases in Asia and some areas of Europe, start suddenly and include severe headaches, back and abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision. People may have redness of the face, inflammation or redness of the eyes, or a rash. Later symptoms may include low blood pressure, acute shock, and acute kidney failure. In both cases, complete recovery can take weeks or months.
Does it have a cure?
Cases of contagion with hantavirus are essentially treated with supportive therapy. Care includes careful management of the patient's fluid (hydration) and electrolyte levels, maintenance of correct oxygen and blood pressure levels, and appropriate treatment of any secondary infection. Dialysis may be required to correct severe fluid overload. Intravenous ribavirin, an antiviral drug, has been shown to decrease associated disease and death if used very early in disease.
How often does it occur? Can it become an epidemic?
As I said earlier, this disease is very rare in the United States. American researchers link the first case to the death of a 38-year-old man in Utah in 1959. Since then, fewer than 1,000 cases have been reported by the CDC. This means that the possibility of becoming a pandemic like the coronavirus is practically impossible.