Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) and the related illness Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) are rare infections caused by viruses belonging to the Bunyaviridae family. They are zoonoses – animal diseases that can spread to humans – transmitted through the urine, feces, and saliva of infected deer mice and other wild rodents.
Viruses causing HPS are found in the Americas while those causing HFRS exist worldwide. Travellers can get ill when they breath air droplets contaminated with the virus. Campers, hikers, and cave explorers are at risk if they come into direct contact with infected rodents or their nesting areas. HPS and HFRS are also occupational hazards for trades workers (plumbers, electricians), pest control workers, and wildlife researchers.
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 weeks after infection and include fever, backache, muscle aches especially in the thighs, hips, and shoulders), general weakness, and fatigue. Some people may also experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. The illness may progress to more severe symptoms including difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and coughing, usually occurring 10 days later.
Symptoms of Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome usually appear 1 to 2 weeks after infection and are much more severe than in patients with Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Infected persons experience fever, intense headaches, back and abdominal pain, chills, nausea, blurred vision, red eyes, or a rash. The disease may progress into uncontrolled bleeding, kidney failure, and shock. If untreated, both HPS and HFRS can be fatal.
Travellers should avoid direct contact with wild rodents.
There is no preventive medication or vaccine against Hantavirus.
For Hantavirus images, life cycle, and distribution maps:
Information last updated: April 11, 2019