A man from China’s Yunnan province who tested positive for a virus called Hantavirus has died from the virus on March 23, China’s Global Times reports.
According to Global Times, the man died from the virus while on his way back to Shandong Province of China for work on a chartered bus.
The report also said 32 other people have been tested positive to the virus which according to Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention had its “first” outbreak in 1993.
Following his death, hantavirus has become a topic of discuss on a micro-blogging social platform, Twitter with people panicking that it was another COVID-19 set to cause the world a new pandemic.
However, contrary to popular belief and social media speculation, hantavirus is unlike Coronavirus.
According Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on its website, unlike coronavirus, hantavirus is not airborne and humans who contract the virus usually come into contact with rodents that carry the virus.
CDC says Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied disease syndromes in people worldwide.
It explained that;
Each hantavirus serotype has a specific rodent host species and is spread to people via aerosolized virus that is shed in urine, feces, and saliva, and less frequently by a bite from an infected host.
The most important hantavirus in the United States that can cause HPS is the Sin Nombre virus, spread by the deer mouse.
The agency added that;
Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure. Even healthy individuals are at risk for Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) infection if exposed to the virus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet added that although HPS can’t be passed on from person to person, it can be contracted if someone “touches their eyes, nose or mouth after touching rodent droppings, urine, or nesting materials.”
According to Government of Canada’s Public Health Service, one can get the disease by inhaling virus particles from rodent urine, dropping or saliva dropped into food.
It can also be contracted when rodent waste is served up from vacuuming or sweeping. Rat bites can cause an infection but this is mostly rare.
The CDC states that;
Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure. Even healthy individuals are at risk for HPS infection if exposed to the virus.”
HPS has a small incubation period and symptoms deliver over 1 to 8 weeks.
Some early symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, muscle ache, abdominal pain, dizziness, chills and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.
HPS has fatality rate of 38%, which makes it more dangerous than coronavirus.
Diagnosis for HPS is difficult because symptoms can be confused with influenza, much like the coronavirus symptoms.
Individuals with fever and fatigue and who are exposed to rats should be tested. In India, groups such as irulas, who hunt rats and snakes, have been found to be vulnerable.
No specific treatment other than medical care and ICU, where oxygen therapy can help with respiratory distress. The earlier the patient reaches ICU, the better it is.
Hantavirus can be prevented by minimizing contact with rats at home or work, cleaning up properly and use pest control.