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In China, a man who was riding the bus to work died. He was tested for a new type of coronavirus, but the test was negative. But traces of hantavirus were found in the patient's body. When the Chinese media reported this, there was a fuss: we were missing a second pandemic. But in fact, this time there is nothing to be afraid of.
What is Hantavirus?
Like coronaviruses, hantaviruses are a whole family that was isolated 40 years ago, and some representatives were known even earlier. They usually infect mice, rats and other small mammals, and they transmit them to humans. But these viruses do not harm rodents, and they cause diseases in humans.
Hantaviruses in the Americas are capable of causing cardiopulmonary (ie, affecting the heart and lungs) syndrome, which resembles the flu but is much more likely to be fatal. Eurasian hantaviruses are the causative agents of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, from which a man died in China.
What kind of fever?
Hemorrhagic, this and many other fevers are called because they often (but not always) bleed. The one caused by hantaviruses is not even one disease, but several very similar ones associated with damage to the walls of blood vessels.
Symptoms usually begin one to two weeks after infection. Suddenly, the head, back, abdomen begin to ache, the temperature rises, the person is shivering and nauseous, everything floats before his eyes. It happens that patients have a rash, a blush on the face, and their eyes become inflamed or redden.
Over time, some of those infected have a drop in blood pressure, shock develops, the very bleeding occurs, and the kidneys fail. Not everyone gets out. The severity of the disease largely depends on what kind of virus entered the body. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites the following data: from the Puumala virus, less than 1% of cases die, and from the Hantaan virus - in 5-15% (according to another estimate, the mortality rate does not exceed 10%).
Is it being treated?
With difficulties. In clinical trials, several drugs have produced encouraging but at times conflicting results. Treatment is mainly aimed at supporting the body while it fights the infection: monitoring the balance of fluids and electrolytes, and in severe cases, the blood is sent through a special apparatus that replaces the kidneys. The illness lasts for several weeks. Those who recovered for another three to six months experience weakness and dizziness.
Is there any reason not to worry?
Yes. First, there is a vaccine against several fever-causing hantaviruses. It is administered not to just anyone, but to those who are at risk of infection. These are mainly residents of Asian countries: 90% of cases of the disease occur in China. True, hantavirus fever also occurs in Russia: according to the Vector Research Center, an average of 6,000 cases are recorded every year. But don't worry too much.
The main thing to remember about this disease is that it is not transmitted from person to person. For at least 70 years, not a single such case has been described (but in South America, people have infected each other with the local hantavirus several times). You can get sick if you inhale particles of excrement, dried saliva or urine from rodents, touch your nose or mouth with dirty hands, eat food on which these particles have settled, or through a wound.
Most often, peasants or residents of places where rats and mice have bred are infected. For example, in 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the war had been going on for several years, almost 400 cases were registered: not that many, given the circumstances.
In a word, the hantavirus pandemic does not threaten us.