Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Transmissable To Humans
This information was initially summarized from BC Ministry of Health and Health Canada.
General Information
  • Hantaviruses are part of a group of viruses called the Bunyaviridae. Exposure to hantaviruses can cause a rare, but often fatal, disease called Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS).
  • This rare disease was first described in the southwestern United States in 1993. It is believed that the virus has been present for a long time, but was only just recently recognized.
  • The earliest documented case of HPS in Canada virus was in Alberta in 1989. Since then, there have been over 70 confirmed cases. Most of the cases occurred in western Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia), except for one case in Quebec.
  • Hantavirus infections contracted by Canadians outside the country have also been recognized, including two fatal cases from South America.
  • In Canada, the virus has been found only in wild deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus).
Signs and Symptoms
  • The following flu-like symptoms can result from Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) as summarized by Health Canada:
    • fever;
    • chills;
    • muscle aches;
    • headaches;
    • nausea;
    • stomach problems.
  • Symptoms can appear within 3 to 60 days after exposure; however, the average time it takes for symptoms to appear is 14 to 30 days following exposure.
  • HPS is extremely serious since approximately 30-40% of cases result in death, usually within a few days of the initial symptoms appearing. Those who recover do so rapidly and regain full function of their lungs, but long-term effects, such as fatigue, are common.
  • HPS can progress rapidly into serious lung complications and include the following symptoms:
    • abnormal fall in blood pressure;
    • lungs fill with fluid;
    • severe respiratory failure.
  • Humans are most often exposed to the virus by breathing in airborne viral particles. Viral particles can often become airborne after sweeping or vacuuming infected areas. It is also possible to be exposed to the virus through rodent bites, if the skin is broken, or through ingestion.
Treatment and Risk Reduction
  • Although there is no specific treatment, medication, or cure, many of the symptoms and complications of HPS can be treated. Most patients are admitted to intensive care in a hospital. Some patients may be given anti-viral drugs, and intravenous fluids and other drugs to maintain blood pressure and prevent shock.
  • All rodent droppings should be treated as potentially harmful. The primary strategy for minimizing your risk is to ensure rodent control in the home.
  • There are things you can do to reduce your risk of being exposed:
    • keep mice out of your home. Block openings that might allow rodents from entering;
    • store human and animal food, water and garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids;
    • keep your yard clean, and store woodpiles above the ground and away from the home;
    • when cleaning your home or other buildings, be aware of animal droppings and nesting materials. If you find any, clean them up safely;
    • do not sweep or vacuum rodent droppings; this will release particles into the air where they can be inhaled.
  • How to properly handle and dispose of animal droppings:
    • wear rubber or plastic gloves;
    • spray droppings with a general purpose household disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water (1 part bleach, 9 parts water);
    • make sure you get the droppings very wet. Let the area soak for ten minutes;
    • use a paper towel to wipe up the droppings. Dispose of the paper towel immediately;
    • wash gloves in disinfectant and hot soapy water before removing them from your hands, and thoroughly wash your hands after removing gloves;
    • when cleaning areas contaminated by droppings in a confined space, consider wearing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered respirator.
Further Reading
Return to Manual Home Page Disease List - Body Region Affected Disease List - Causative Agent or Risk Factor Disease Surveillance Form Glossary Contact Information
Return to Manual Home Page Return to Disease List - Body Region Affected Return to Disease List - Causative Agent or Risk Factor Disease Surveillance Form Download Glossary Contact Information