Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

February 8, 2017

Hantaviruses, from the Bunyaviridae family, are a group of viruses that are normally carried by rodents, such as rats, mice and voles. They are present throughout the world and they cause a range of diseases in humans ranging from mild, flu-like illness to severe respiratory illness or haemorrhagic disease with kidney involvement. This rare disease was first identified in the southwestern United States in 1993 and in western Canada in 1994. Each year in B.C., only a couple of people report being ill with hantavirus.

Hantaviruses belong to the bunyavirus family of viruses. Other viruses in this family are spread by arthropods, like insects and arachnids. Some examples include the tick-borne Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and the mosquito-borne Rift Valley fever virus, both of which most commonly infect people and livestock in Africa. But unlike these arthropod-borne viruses, hantaviruses are spread by rodents, such as mice and rats. The majority of cases of HPS occur during the spring and summer, mostly in rural areas. Although it is a relatively uncommon infection, it can be deadly.

Anyone who comes into contact with rodents that carry hantavirus is at risk of HPS. Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure. Even healthy individuals are at risk for HPS infection if exposed to the virus.


HPS is caused by Sin Nombre Hantavirus, a newly identified virus within the Bunyaviridae family. The virus is carried by rodents, most commonly by the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). The deer mouse can be found in most parts of the United States, except the southeast. Not all deer mice are infected with Sin Nombre hantavirus, and those that do carry the virus do not appear to be affected by any associated disease.

Another strain of the Hantavirus has been identified in the white-footed mouse which is a species native to the eastern US. This strain has been named New York virus. In addition, another new strain was identified in harvest mice found in Orange County, CA, and Arizona’s Apache County. Harvest mice are found from southern Alberta, Canada, into north-central Mexico and from California to Wisconsin.

Sin Nombre hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they come in direct or indirect (airborne) contact with waste products or saliva from an infected rodent. Respiratory transmission, thought to be the most frequent mode of transmission of Sin Nombre hantavirus, occurs when an individual inhales airborne particles of dust or dried particles that carry saliva or waste products from an infected rodent. Infectious virus particles could also penetrate through the mucosa.

Environmental factors – Rural populations with potential exposure to wild rodents are at risk. There are cases of patients developing HPS without any obvious exposure to rodents, but it is possible that patients may not recognize their rodent exposure. In these cases, an awareness of other cases of HPS in the area and suspicious signs and symptoms should alert one to seek help and clinicians to establish early diagnosis and treatment

People can become infected by –

  • Breathing in tiny airborne particles that come from rodent urine.
  • Touching rodent urine, saliva, or droppings.
  • Coming in contact with dust contaminated with the virus.
  • Being bitten by an infected mouse.

Risk Factors

  • Opening and Cleaning Previously Unused Buildings – Opening or cleaning cabins, sheds, and outbuildings, including barns, garages and storage facilities, that have been closed during the winter is a potential risk for hantavirus infections, especially in rural settings.
  • Housecleaning Activities – Cleaning in and around your own home can put you at risk if rodents have made it their home too. Many homes can expect to shelter rodents, especially as the weather turns cold. Please see our prevention information on how to properly clean rodent-infested areas.
  • Work-related Exposure – Construction, utility and pest control workers can be exposed when they work in crawl spaces, under houses, or in vacant buildings that may have a rodent population.
  • Campers and Hikers – Campers and hikers can also be exposed when they use infested trail shelters or camp in other rodent habitats.


People who are sick from HPS may at first think they have the flu. The difference is that with this virus the breathing problems become worse, the lungs fill with fluid which may cause the breathing to stop and the person to die. The fatality rate is approximately 50 percent.

Early symptoms include –

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches (especially in the thighs, hips, back and sometimes the shoulders)

About half of HPS patients also experience the following symptoms: –

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Chills

Late symptoms begin four to 10 days after initial phase of illness and include –

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness around chest

Less common symptoms include –

  • Earache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • RashShortness of breath


Complications of hantavirus may include: –

  • Kidney failure
  • Heart and lung failure

These complications can lead to death.


People with hantavirus are admitted to the hospital, often to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Treatments will include –

  • Oxygen
  • Breathing tube or breathing machine in severe cases
  • A medication called ribavirin to treat kidney-related problems and reduce the risk of death
  • Using special machines to oxygenate the blood outside of the body (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

There is no effective treatment for hantavirus infection involving the lungs.

Alternative Treatment

Vitamin A emulsion – This vitamin is a potent antioxidant that has the aptitude to get into the system rapidly and strengthen the immune system, especially when one is under immense stress owing to a viral infection.

Vitamin C with therapeutic doses of bioflavonoids – Vitamin C is a potent antiviral agent which also aids to make the capillary walls stronger. In fact, the hantavirus directly invades the capillary walls, especially in the lungs. Large doses of vitamin C help to aid in combating the virus. However, before you take this supplement, you should check with your physician regarding the appropriate dosage.

Germanium – This mineral supplement aids in intensifying the immune reactions.

Zinc – Taking this mineral supplement aids in perking up the immune system to effectively combat the viral infection.

L-cysteine – This is a form of amino acid that is useful in defending the body against viral infections.

Buckwheat – It contains rich amounts of rutin that is useful for repairing the harmed walls of the capillaries.

Burdock root – This herb works to cleanse the blood and also detoxify the body – eliminate toxic substances.

Catnip – This herb works effectively to lower fevers that usually accompany viral infections.

Chlorophyll – Similar to burdock root, this phytochemical also helps to eliminate toxic substances from the bloodstream.

Comfrey and fenugreek – These two herbs are helpful in restoring the harmed lung tissue and also encourage the drainage of fluid build-up in the lungs.

Echinacea tea – This herb possesses considerable antiviral attributes and hence drinking a potent herbal tea/ infusion prepared from this herb many times every day helps to combat the viral infection.

Garlic capsules – This herb possesses potent antiviral properties and therefore is effective for fighting viral infections.

Heartsease – This particular herb encourages the healing process of the walls of the capillary.

Pau d’ arco tea – People suffering from viral infections will find drinking a tea prepared from this herb beneficial, as it possesses antiviral properties.

Siberian ginseng – This herb is helpful for healing the damaged passage ways of the respiratory system. At the same time, it also enhances energy supplies and promotes recuperation from diseases and health conditions that make the person very feeble.


Reference –