What is HPS?
HPS is a severe respiratory disease caused by the hantavirus that can sometimes be fatal. HPS is spread through infected rodents. To date, no cases involving human-to-human transmission have been reported in the U.S.
What rodents in the U.S. carry hantavirus?
- Deer mouse
- Cotton rat
- Rice rat
- White-footed mouse
How is HPS spread?
HPS is transmitted through rodents, typically in rural areas. The most common virus that causes HPS is Sin Nombre, which is spread by the deer mouse. Other types of viruses can be spread by different rodents in the U.S. Cases have been reported in North, Central, and South America.
How do humans get the hantavirus?
Humans can become infected through:
- Airborne transmission (rodent saliva, feces, and urine)
- Rodent bites
- Touching rodent feces, saliva, and/or urine and then touching their mouth or nose
- Eating food contaminated with rodent feces, saliva, and/or urine
Who is at risk for HPS?
Anyone that comes into contact with rodent saliva, feces, or urine can become infected with hantavirus. This can especially occur in rural areas or places with rodent infestations.
Activities that can put you at risk for HPS include:
- Cleaning Previously Vacant Buildings: Cleaning facilities can be risky, especially if they have been vacant for a long time. This is especially risky in rural areas.
- Housecleaning Activities: Cleaning your home can be dangerous if rodents have made their way in.
- Exposure at Work: Workers in pest control or construction can be at risk.
- Campers/Hikers: People in close contact with rodent habitats can be at risk, especially when camping or hiking.
What are the symptoms of HPS?
Up to 38% of people die from HPS, so it is important to know the symptoms and contact your healthcare provider if you believe you have been infected with hantavirus. Since HPS is rare, it is not known how long it takes for symptoms to show, but it is expected 1-8 weeks after coming into contact with rodent waste. Early symptoms include:
- Muscle aches in large muscle groups
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
4-10 days after initial symptoms begin, more severe symptoms occur:
- Shortness of breath
- Lungs filling with fluid
How is HPS diagnosed?
Diagnosis is difficult, because early symptoms are often mistaken for the flu. However, if the patient is short of breath and has a history of living in an area in contact with rodents, it could be a sign of HPS. If you are experiencing these symptoms and have had recent exposure with rodents, contact your healthcare provider.
How is HPS treated?
There is no specific treatment, antibiotic, or vaccine to treat HPS. However, patients that received intensive care early on were more likely to recover. If you believe you have HPS, contact your healthcare provider immediately so they can provide treatment as soon as possible.
How can I prevent HPS?
HPS can be prevented by sealing any holes and gaps in your home, setting traps to eliminate infestations, and cleaning up any food laying around the home.
For more information on HPS and how to prevent it, visit http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/index.html.