Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a rare but potentially life-threatening disease caused by the hantavirus. This virus is primarily transmitted to humans through contact with infected rodents, specifically the deer mouse in North America. HPS can lead to severe respiratory distress and has a mortality rate of around 38%. It is important to be aware of the symptoms and take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of this disease.

Fever: A Common Early Symptom

One of the initial signs of HPS is the onset of fever. This fever is often accompanied by other flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches, fatigue, and dizziness. It is crucial to monitor your body temperature and seek medical attention if the fever persists or worsens.

Chills and Nausea: Warning Signs

As the disease progresses, individuals may experience chills and nausea. These symptoms can be quite debilitating and may lead to vomiting and diarrhea. It is important to stay hydrated and rest as much as possible during this stage. If the symptoms worsen or persist, medical intervention is necessary.

Abdominal Pain: A Distinctive Symptom

One of the distinctive symptoms of HPS is abdominal pain. This pain is often described as sharp and intense, and it can be accompanied by a loss of appetite. If you experience severe abdominal pain along with other symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

Cough and Shortness of Breath: A Sign of Respiratory Distress

As HPS progresses, individuals may develop a persistent cough and experience shortness of breath. These symptoms indicate respiratory distress and should not be ignored. It is essential to seek medical help promptly to prevent further complications.

Prevention: Key to Avoiding HPS

1. Rodent Control

The primary mode of transmission for hantavirus is through contact with infected rodents. To prevent HPS, it is crucial to implement effective rodent control measures. Seal any cracks or openings in your home to prevent rodents from entering. Keep food stored in rodent-proof containers and dispose of garbage properly.

2. Cleanliness and Hygiene

Maintaining cleanliness and good hygiene practices can significantly reduce the risk of HPS. Regularly clean and disinfect areas where rodents may have been present, such as attics, basements, and garages. Use gloves and masks while cleaning to avoid direct contact with potentially infected materials.

3. Avoiding Direct Contact

Avoid direct contact with rodents or their droppings. If you need to clean an area with rodent droppings, wet the area with a disinfectant solution before cleaning to minimize the risk of inhaling the virus. Use disposable gloves and masks while handling potentially contaminated materials.

Treatment: Seeking Medical Attention

Currently, there is no specific cure for HPS. However, early detection and medical intervention can significantly improve the chances of survival. If you experience symptoms associated with HPS, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Inform healthcare professionals about any potential exposure to rodents or their droppings.

Supportive Care: Managing Symptoms

While there is no specific cure, supportive care can help manage the symptoms of HPS. This may include oxygen therapy to alleviate respiratory distress, intravenous fluids to maintain hydration, and medications to reduce fever and pain. Hospitalization is often necessary for close monitoring and appropriate care.


Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome is a rare but serious disease that can lead to severe respiratory distress. Recognizing the symptoms and taking necessary precautions to prevent exposure to infected rodents is crucial. If you experience symptoms associated with HPS, seek immediate medical attention. Remember, prevention is key, and implementing effective rodent control measures can significantly reduce the risk of HPS.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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