Should we be afraid of the “new” Hantavirus from China

Against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a threatening message from China about the death of a person from Hantavirus, which some sources have already dubbed the “new Chinese virus.”

Hantavirus is not new at all; it was discovered in 1978. This is not even a virus, but a group of viruses that have been fairly well studied to date. Hantaviruses cause severe and sometimes fatal respiratory infections, as well as hemorrhagic fever, sometimes accompanied by impaired kidney function.

Rodents are carriers of the disease, and the virus gets to humans through their bites or contact with their urine and feces. There is evidence that the virus is also present in the urine and feces of a sick person, but airborne droplets do not transmit it from person to person.

The virus has geographical variations and is typical mainly for warm regions.

About 30 cases of Hantavirus infection per year are recorded in the United States. This is not much, but the death rate from Hantavirus pulmonary fever is very high — 30-40 percent. The mortality rate from hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, which is how Hantavirus is most often manifested in Europe and Asia, is significantly lower — from one to 15 percent. American scientists note that in almost all cases, infection occurs when people breathe vapors that emit rodent excrement. No cases of human-to-human transmission of Hantavirus have been reported.

The main safety measures are hygiene and personal protection when staying in rooms infested with mice. Scientists believe that people can become infected with Hantavirus if they touch something that has been contaminated with rodent urine, droppings or saliva, and then touch their dirty hands to their nose or mouth. There is speculation that people can get the virus through food contaminated with the urine, droppings or saliva of a rodent, and in rare cases, by biting an infected animal.

In the United States and Canada in 2017, there was an outbreak of Hantavirus in 11 States, which infected 17 people. In China, from 16 to 100 thousand infections are registered annually. Most of the cases, according to the Chinese center for disease control and prevention, show symptoms such as fever, bleeding and kidney damage. Early symptoms include exhaustion, vomiting, and redness of the cheeks. Since 2008, China has introduced vaccination programs against Hantavirus in certain regions and high-risk groups.

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