Hantavirus: Symptoms & Treatment of Infection

A hantavirus of one of a group of viruses that may be carried by some rodents. Some hantaviruses can cause a rare but deadly disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Below is a brief overview of the causes, symptoms and treatments, plus links to more information.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome: Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is an infectious disease characterized by flu-like symptoms that can progress rapidly to potentially life-threatening breathing problems.

What Causes HPS? Several types of hantavirus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. They are carried by several types of rodents, particularly the deer mouse. People become infected primarily by breathing air infected with hantaviruses that are shed in rodent urine and droppings.  

Is HPS Contagious? Yes and no. People who have the North American version of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome aren't contagious to other people. However, the milder South American variety of the disease can be transmitted from person to person.


Signs & Symptoms: Symptoms of HPS may develop between one and five weeks after exposure to fresh urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents. The early stages of infection are difficult to distinguish from the flu. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever and chills
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Four to 10 days later, more serious symptoms appear:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Fluid accumulating within the lungs
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduced heart efficiency

Treatment & Remedies: Treatment options are limited. People with severe cases need immediate treatment in an intensive care unit. They will be intubated and given oxygen therapy to help them through the period of severe respiratory distress.

More Facts:

  • HPS can be fatal. It has a mortality rate of 38 percent.
  • HPS is most common in rural areas of the western United States during the spring and summer months.
  • The chance of developing HPS is greater for people who work, live or play in spaces where rodents live.

Sources and More Information:

This information is not meant to provide specific medical advice. It is for educational purposes only. We recommend you consult a qualified health care professional for diagnoses and treatment advice, and call 9-1-1 in emergencies.

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