Viruses are one of the most unique organism, neither considered living or non living, and can cause problems from the common cold to severe illness. They are capable of infecting anything from plants, animals, and humans. Due to the large amount of viruses, more than 5,000 types, there are many interesting ones that have gone years without being identified. One of which is the hantavirus. The hantavirus is a rodent-borne virus that was first brought to attention in the 1950s, after many United Nation troops stationed in Korea became very ill after suspected contact with rodents. From here it got its name, after the Korean river, the Hantaan River. Through the years, the virus made its way to the United States, where in 1993 one of the largest outbreaks in the area of the “Four Corners”, where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet, occured. From this the hantavirus was discovered to be a rodent-borne virus belonging to the bunavirus family, thus, infection with this virus can result in hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), or hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). Through further analyzation we have been able to identify the morphology, virulence factors, diseases, diagnostic techniques, epidemiology, and treatment.
The hantavirus is member of the Bunyaviridae family, which is made up of five genera: Orthobunyavirus, Nairovirus, Phlebovirus, Tospovirus, and Hantavirus. However, the hantavirus is the only one not transmitted by arthropods, instead is passed through infected rodents. The hanta virus is an enveloped virus made up of three single-stranded negative sense RNA segments. Each are designated small, medium, and large that are coding for nucleocapsid protein (NP). The main structural protein is the nucleocapsid protein which is complexed with viral RNA segments that form helical nucleocapsids. They are spherical in shape and replicate in the cytoplasm of host cells. Entry to host cells occurs endocytosis and attachment of the virion to cellular receptors. Viral genes are then transcribed by L protein association an initiate transcription of viral mRNAs.
As stated above the hantavirus is known to cause two very severe diseases HPS and HFRS. HPS is a severe disease that attacks the respiratory system and is sometimes fatal. It can easily be confused with influenza in the early stages of infection. Often times the infected will show signs of fever,shortness of breath, chest pains, and fatigue or discomfort. Most associated with a history of rodent exposure. HPS has no specific cure or vaccine yet. If brought to medical attention early on then the patient is put in an intensive care unit. Within the facility they would be give oxygen therapy to help reduce stress of the respiratory system. Recovery times may vary but no severe lasting effects are common. The best treatment for HPS is prevention. HPS is caused by coming in contact with saliva, urine, and droppings of rodents, as well as airborne such as breathing touching or being bitten by a rodent carrying the hantavirus. Thus, prevention of this infection would be to avert from contacting places with rodents. If contact is to occurs and symptoms follow contactia physician to look into rodent borne illness like HPS.
The second most known virus caused by the hantavirus is HFRS. Similar to HPS humans can become infected through contact with infected rodents, or between an infected human and another. HFRS usually develops within one through two weeks after exposure and may take up to eight weeks to fully develop. Symptoms include headaches, fevers, chills, blurred vision, and abdominal pain. If prolonged seeking medical attention is the best option as low blood pressure, kidney failure, and vascular leakage may occur. HFRS is severe but not very common disease. Thus several laboratory tests have to be undergone to confirm HFRS. It can be treated by managing patients hydration, electrolyte levels, oxygen, and blood pressure levels. Like HPS the way this virus is prevented is by taking precautions to rodent infested areas. Along with rodent environment control near populated communities.