by Annabelle Hallam

What is Hantavirus?

Hantavirus is a repository disease spread by white tailed mice, cotton rats, and rice rats. The most common carrier of Hantavirus in the United States is the deer mouse.

Symptoms of Hantavirus

In the first stage of Hantavirus, the symptoms are flu-like with a fever, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pains. The first stage usually lasts four to ten days. Symptoms of the second stage include coughs/secretions, shortness of breath, fluid in lungs, low blood pressure, and/or reduced heat.

Treatment for Hantavirus

There are two main treatments for Hantavirus: blood oxygenation and supportive therapy. Blood Oxygenation is called extra corporeal membrane oxygenation, but is shortened so it is easier to say. It is only used with very severe cases of Hantavirus. Using a machine, blood is taken out of your body. Oxygen is added and then pumped back into the body. Supportive therapy is a therapy used for patients with severe Hantavirus. Assisted respiration or intubation is used, which basically mean they have help breathing.

The Cause of Hantavirus

So how does this terrible disease occur? The virus is found in rat droppings. If you accidentally sweep, touch or disturb the dead rat/droppings the deadly particles are released into the air. The particles mix with air and travel to your lungs. The disease particles invade capillaries, causing your lungs to flood with fluid.

What makes you more likely to get Hantavirus?

Some things that might increase your risk of getting Hantavirus are:

  • living in rural areas
  • house cleaning, cleaning unused places
  • having a rodent infested home
  • job working with rats (construction, scientist, etc.)
  • camping, hiking, hunting


To prevent getting Hantavirus, block access of rodents. Close of open food, lessen material for nesting, and setting out rodent traps. If you find a dead rat or rat droppings in your home, wet the area where the rat/droppings are. After some time, pick up the item with a wet towel. Use a disinfectant or bleach to clean up the area where the specimen has been. Also use precaution when near Hantavirus rats.


  • 1993, 396 cases were reported in the USA
  • Hantavirus has been reported in 30 states
  • 36% death rate
  • 2006, 451 cases in USA
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How Hantavirus Was Discovered

Hantavirus was discovered during the Korean War in the 1950s. 3,000 United Nation troops died of an unfamiliar disease. Rodents were suspected as the carrier/vector. It was originally called Hemorrhagic Fever, but was renamed Hantavirus after the Hantaan River in Korea.

It was 1993 and a young fit 19 year old Navajo man living in the four corners area was driving to his fiance's funeral, who had died five days earlier. The man suddenly could not breath and was rushed to the hospital. He died later that week. His family reported him having flu-like symptoms the previous week. The x ray of his lungs showed that they were flooded, and the doctors were mystified. His fiance had also died of similar symptoms.

The New Mexico Office found five more cases of young healthy people who died in the area, because of respiratory troubles. 70% of the people died. If the department hadn't found the connection between the young Navajo man and his fiance, the disease may have taken many years to be discovered.


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