Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
In the early 1990s, there was an outbreak of a mysterious and deadly disease in the Four Corners area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. An equally mysterious virus, dubbed Sin Nombre virus, caused the illness.Sin Nombre virus turned out to be a member of the Hantavirus family. Although other Hantaviruses can cause fatal illnesses, none is as deadly as the Sin Nombre virus. It causes the disease called Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). There are other strains of Hantavirus that also cause HPS in the U.S: These include New York Hantavirus in Northeastern states, and Black Creek Canal Hantavirus and Bayou Hantavirus in Southeastern states. By the end of 2011, 34 states reported HPS cases. The vast majority were in Western and Southwestern states.
The culprit Mice and rats spread Hantaviruses among themselves. The droppings, urine, saliva, and blood of infected animals are chock-full of virus particles. Deer mice carry the Sin Nombre strain of Hantavirus. Cotton rats and rice rats carry Hantavirus in the Southeast, while white-footed mice carry Hantavirus in the Northeast. Although it is possible to get Hantavirus infection from a mouse or rat bite, such infections are rare. Most people get it by inhaling dust contaminated by rodent droppings or by touching rodent urine and then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose.
Getting infected is easier than it might seem. For example, sweeping up rat or rodent droppings and then touching any part of your face thereafter, may lead to a possible contamination with HPS. Hantavirus usually does not spread from person to person; rather through contact with rodents is the most effect source.
The Hantavirus incubation period is not known precisely. The Center for Disease Control notes that HPS symptoms tend to appear one to five week after exposure. The initial phase usually lasts for 3 to 5 days; the clinical signs during this period may include fever, myalgia, headache, chills,...