Hantavirus: Another pandemic in the world| What is it?



The world has been plagued with the notorious Corona or COVID – 19 viruses. Almost 75 percent of the whole world is still under the grip of this deadly disease. The rate of infection and the rate of deaths has been on a rise forcing the world to shutdown. A lot of countries are in a complete state of lockdown. People are not allowed to leave their houses and everything is being done remotely. Italy is the worst-hit country and is still dealing with a lot of patients and deaths. While Italy is still battling, China has almost become free from the grip of this virus. The country is even getting back to its normal routine and people have started working once again. But now came’s the new Hantavirus!

While China is recovering from Corona, another virus by the name Hantavirus has caused a person to die today. This is an old disease that has resurfaced now but has created a lot of panic all around the world. There are many things that are still not known about this virus but as of now, there is no need to panic. Let me explain what this actually is.

First case and where it happened –

According to the state media, China has loosened the lockdowns and is now allowing people to work. This morning a resident of Yunnan Province was going to work. He took a bus to Shandong Province along with 32 people. The person died while still on the bus. Tests and symptoms have confirmed the cause of death to be Hantavirus. The 32 co-passengers have been tested for the same and are awaiting their results.

What is Hantavirus –

Hantaviruses are a group of RNA containing viruses that are transmitted through rodents. This virus while not being transmitted directly from a rodent bite can still be transmitted through various factors. It is spread to people through carriers like the saliva, feces or urine of the host. The outbreak of this virus was first observed in 1993 in the US. Another outbreak happened in 2012 at the Yosemite national park where Deer mice transmitted this disease to humans. This virus is also airborne as the airborne particles can take this virus up from feces and urine. Saliva can also vaporize and spread in the air. This virus also had an outbreak in Seoul, Korea in 2017. Although this virus has been categorized as severe as well as fatal, the good thing here is that the outbreaks of this virus were shortlived and the number of cases was very less.

Is Hantavirus contagious? –

The good news is that this virus is not contagious from person to person. The virus can only spread through rodent feces, urine, and saliva. Direct contact is rare with these factors but indirect contact takes place through the air. The urine and saliva can vaporize and microparticles in contact with the feces can spread through the air. The time this virus takes to show its initial symptoms is about 1 to 5 weeks. This time period is called the incubation period and varies from country to country.

Prevention is better than cure-

To avoid getting in contact with this virus, one should avoid going to rural areas during the outbreak. Avoid going to farms, barns, sheds and abandoned places as they are infested with rodents. Avoid going hiking and biking as those areas may also have rodents. Urban areas such as construction sites and congested spaces or streets should be avoided at all costs. It is much easier to do so if you are living in a city but it does get a little difficult if you live in the countryside.

Symptoms –

This virus has different stages in terms of syndromes. It mainly has 2 categories – Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome or HPS and Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome or HFRS. Let’s take a look at these individually.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) –

In this, there are basically 2 stages of infections. The early symptoms include muscle aches, fatigue, and fever. One may also experience dizziness, chills and abdominal problems. One may just sit home and not visit the doctor considering these to be common cold. But it is highly advisable to visit a doctor if you have been to a place where the chances of rodents living are high. The initial stage of treatment of this virus may save your life but once it gets to the second stage, it is very difficult to recover from that.

The symptoms move to the second stage when it is left untreated. This involves a lot of coughing and shortness of breath. Immediate medical attention is required in such cases as it causes shortness of breath and the patient has to be put on life support. If not treated in time, one can die as this virus has a mortality rate of about 38 percent.

Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) –

The early symptoms of this syndrome are very similar to that of HPS. It involves muscle aches, fatigue, and fever. The advanced stage of this syndrome is deadly or it can leave you crippled for life. It causes kidney failure, low blood pressure, acute shock, and vascular leakage. Treatment of this syndrome is very difficult as it may involve surgeries and dialysis. When one is already infected by this virus and has multiple other problems excluding a particular one, it becomes difficult to treat the patient.

The immunity of the person may go down and his body may not be able to withstand all the procedures. A kidney transplant may not be successful as the body might reject the donor organ. This one has a rare chance of getting passed from one person to another but at the same time is quite rare to happen. The mortality rate of this syndrome varies from 5 to 15 percent according to the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention website.

Diagnosis and Treatment –

Now comes the most worrying part. According to doctors, this virus does not have a specific diagnosis method. The reason behind this is the symptoms that are very common to be considered. The world has never faced this virus on a scale so as to be declared a pandemic due to which there has been no need to develop a kit. As of now, the diagnosis has been done by analyzing the visit history of the patient to any rodent prone areas.

The virus also lacks a vaccine due to the same reason due to which there is no immediate relief. One can only be treated using medical support in an intensive care unit (ICU). Doctors try to treat the patient by treating their symptoms one at a time. The treatment time depends on how the body of the patient responds to the medicines so it may vary from a few days to a few weeks.

How does it stack up to the COVID -19?

In terms of the fatality rate, the Hantavirus is much more fatal than the coronavirus. While the early symptoms of this virus are more dangerous than that of the COVID-19, it can cause serious health issues or even death of people with a strong immune system. Although it is not as contagious at the Coronavirus, it still lacks a proper diagnostic test and a vaccine just like the coronavirus.

As of now, there has only been one case and since this virus can cause two syndromes, it is difficult to identify which one will be prevalent if this becomes a pandemic. It has a much higher mortality rate and the treatment of this virus on a large scale level is quite difficult. The good thing is that one can still carry on with their normal life even in the presence of this virus as a person to person passage does not take place. Also, the chance of spreading this virus is very very slim as the main factor to cause this is dirty surroundings.

Conclusion –

As of now, it is too soon to tell if this virus will affect the human race on a huge level. If we look at the previous figures and the mechanism of this virus, it is highly unlikely to spread. The remaining 32 of the passengers on that bus are likely to test negative so as of now there is no need to panic. Even if it spreads then with the current lockdowns and restrictions in place, it will certainly not become a worldwide threat. It is always better to take proper precautions, so as of now stay outdoors and don’t go to places like barns or fields.

Keep your surroundings clean and wait for the official declarations from organizations like the WHO. Coronavirus has already taken the lives of so many innocent people and has already infected a lot. The countries are already financially drained and the healthcare workers are already having a hard time. The economy has taken immeasurable damage and the world needs to get back on its feet and get over this pandemic. I hope things turn out to be positive for everyone. Till then, stay indoors, stay safe and keep binging on our content.