Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a serious disease that’s transmitted by infected rodents. This respiratory infection often presents like the flu which can make it difficult to diagnose properly. The earlier you can identify HPS, the better your prognosis. Though you can sometimes identify your point of contact with the disease, this isn’t always the case, so it’s important to stay informed about what HPS is and how it manifests.
How Long Does It Take to Get the Hantavirus?
Symptoms of the hantavirus typically appear two to three weeks after an individual is exposed to the virus. The hantavirus is spread by rodents who carry the disease. You can contract the hantavirus through contact with rodent droppings, urine, or saliva.
What Are the First Symptoms of Hantavirus?
Early symptoms of the hantavirus mimic those of the flu. This can lead to misdiagnosis, particularly if you’re not aware of how hantavirus presents. In the first stage of this disease, patients typically experience:
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain
What Are Later Symptoms of Hantavirus?
Roughly four to 10 days after the initial onset of hantavirus, patients progress to the second stage of the disease. In this phase, the virus becomes far more severe. Symptoms in this stage include:
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
- Elevated heartbeat
- Faster breathing
The lungs typically fill with fluid, which can make it difficult for the patient to breathe. Once this occurs, the patient may die within a matter of hours. On average, hantavirus kills 36 percent of people who become infected, according to the CDC. The sooner the disease is caught, the better the patient’s chances of recovery.
Is the Hantavirus Curable?
There is no simple cure for the hantavirus. The best way to handle the disease is with treatment in an intensive care unit. Here, patients can receive intubation and mechanical respiration that will assist with breathing as the lungs begin to fill with fluid. In severe cases, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation can help the patient maintain an adequate oxygen supply. This treatment pumps the patient’s blood through a machine which removes carbon dioxide and adds oxygen before returning the blood to the body.
Some physicians have experimented with treating hantavirus with ribavirin. This antiviral medication looks promising as a treatment option and may decrease the severity of the illness when administered early.
What Does Hantavirus Do to You?
The prognosis for patients with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is best when these individuals are admitted to the hospital early. The overall prognosis for this disease is only fair. About six in ten patients recover from the disease. For those who do recover successfully from hantavirus, there are no long-term complications. Once the primary threat of death is past, it typically takes a few weeks for patients to fully recover.
The best way to handle hantavirus is to avoid it. When possible, take measures to prevent rodent infestations and any contact with their droppings, urine, or saliva. If you know that you’ve been in an infested area, pay particular attention to any symptoms that may indicate the hantavirus and seek treatment early.