Even when the world is trying to find a cure for the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, a report in Global Times said that a man from China's Yunnan province died from Hantavirus while on a bus to the Shandong province.

All the fellow passengers on the bus have been tested for the virus. 

Hantaviruses are a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents and can cause varied disease syndromes in people worldwide. Infection with any hantavirus can produce hantavirus disease in people. Hantaviruses in the Americas are known as “New World” hantaviruses and may cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Other hantaviruses, known as “Old World” hantaviruses, are found mostly in Europe and Asia and may cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). 

Each hantavirus serotype has a specific rodent host species and is spread to people via aerosolized virus that is shed in urine, feces, and saliva, and less frequently by a bite from an infected host. The death of a man in China who had a hantavirus spread by rodents has prompted fears of a new outbreak similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. But an expert has stressed the case is no cause for concern. 


The man, identified by his surname Tian, was traveling on Monday to Shandong, eastern China, for work, when he started to feel unwell, China's state-run Global Times newspaper reported. The man was taken to a hospital in Ningshan county, in northwestern Shannxi Province, and died. It was not clear when he was tested for hantavirus. His 29 fellow passengers were screened for hantavirus, with their results pending, Ningshan county government said according to the Global Times. Tests for COVID-19, meanwhile, came back negative. 

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which is thought to have started from a germ jumping from an animal to a human before spreading across the world, the report prompted panic online. However, hantaviruses are not new and, cases of person-to-person transmission are very rare. Such instances have mostly been reported in people with close contact with those sick with a type of hantavirus called Andes virus in Chile and Argentina. 


Yang Zhanqiu, virologist at Wuhan University, told the Global Times: "There is no need to worry about the hantavirus." Part of the difficulty with stopping the spread of COVID-19 is that as it is new there is no vaccine for it yet. However, Zhanqiu explained: "Hantavirus disease is preventable and controllable and there are vaccines to prevent it. Its incidence in urban cities is very low as the disease is mainly found in rural villages where rats tend to appear when people are working in the field.” Yang said: "Unlike the COVID-19, the hantavirus in most cases does not transmit through the respiratory system. But the human excreta and blood of an infected patient can transmit the virus to humans.” According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, hantaviruses are spread by rodents, like bank voles and the yellow-necked mouse. 

Humans can catch a hantavirus if they breathe in the aerosoled particle from the contaminated urine, feces or saliva of a host. This family of viruses can cause a range of diseases with varying degrees of severity, from no symptoms at all to death. Hantaviruses causes three main syndromes. Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) which largely occurs in Europe and Asia; while a mild version of HFRS called Nephropathia epidemica is seen in Europe. Hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS) meanwhile occurs in the Americas. Anyone can catch a hantavirus, but those who work in forestry and on farms are more at risk of encountering rodent carriers. In most cases, when a person catches a hantavirus they must simply manage the symptoms of the resulting disease, for instance by maintaining a balance of fluids, and in cases of kidney problems, dialysis. In the U.K, the NHS states cases of hantavirus cases in Asia are more common in the spring and summer months due to planting and harvesting activities. 

Early symptoms of hantavirus infections (fatigue, fever, muscle aches) are not caused by anything specific. 

• Signs and symptoms of HPS as it spreads throughout the body include;     
    ◦ lung congestion, 

    ◦ fluid accumulation in the lungs, and 
    ◦ shortness of breath. 

• In addition, some hantaviruses can cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) as the disease progresses. 

• Health officials first identified hantavirus in an outbreak in 1993 in the "Four Corners" area of the southwestern United States. Hantavirus is spread to humans by particles of; 

◦ rodent urine, 
◦ feces, 
◦ saliva, and 
◦ airborne particles containing these excretions.

• It takes about one to five weeks (incubation period) for the signs and symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome begin. 

• About 38% of hantavirus infections are fatal (mortality rate). 

• Lung capillaries leak fluid into the lung tissue, which causes hantavirus.

• Doctors usually diagnose HPS infections based on hantavirus lung symptoms are associated with rodents or probable contact with rodent-contaminated airborne dust, and chest X-rays provide additional evidence, but definitive diagnosis is usually done at a specialized lab or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

• There is no specific treatment, vaccine, or cure for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. 

• Usually, treatment is in an intensive care facility and often require respiratory support (intubation and mechanical ventilation). 

• Special doctors usually care for people with hantavirus infections. 

• Risk factors are any association with rodents and their airborne body excretions. 

• If a person with HPS survives, there are usually no long-term complications. 

• Prevention of HPS centers on avoiding rodent contamination. 

• There is no vaccine available to prevent hantavirus infection or pulmonary syndrome. 

• There is no cure for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome 

SOURCE AND CREDITS: cdc.gov, medicinenet, newsweek