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Friday 5 June 2020

Hantavirus after COVID: Another outbreak in China?

While a Chinese has first tested hantavirus-positive, the biological agent was first heard afflicting people during the Korean War of 1950-53

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After earning the dubious distinction of being the epicentre of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, another biological agent hantavirus has emerged from China and immediately started to wreak havoc in local society.

A person died in China’s southwestern state of Yunnan on Monday after being afflicted with the virus, which mice carry, while many are feared to be infected.

Victim of hantavirus detected in a bus

According to a tweet from the Communist Party government-run newspaper Global Times, the victim of hantavirus was travelling by a bus from Shandong state. On the way, his health deteriorated.

Upon investigation, he was found to have acquired the hantavirus disease.

The administration subjected 32 other people aboard the bus to tests. Further information was not provided in the tweet.

It may not be classified as an outbreak yet unless some of these 32 co-passengers are infected and they, in turn, have infected many others.

Hantavirus spread by mice

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America’s top health institution, the virus spread by mice can cause symptoms of many diseases in the human body. This virus mainly affects the lungs.

This virus that makes mice its host is known as the Newworld hantavirus in the US. Different strains of hantavirus thrive on species of mice, moles and squirrels. This may be due to their contact with stool, urine, saliva or bite.

First infections

The hantaviruses are a relatively newly discovered genus of viruses. Hantavirus infection caused an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever among American and Korean soldiers during the Korean War (1950–1953). More than 3,000 troops became ill with symptoms that included kidney failure, generalised haemorrhage and shock.

It had a 10% mortality rate.

Hantavirus was named after the Hantan River area in South Korea. This outbreak sparked a 25-year search for the etiologic agent.

Ho-Wang Lee, a South Korean virologist, and his colleagues isolated the Hantan virus in 1976 from the lungs of striped field mice.

Biology

The hantavirus or orthohantavirus is a single-stranded, enveloped, negative-sense RNA virus in the family Hantaviridae of the order Bunyavirales. These viruses normally cause infection in rodents but do not cause disease in them.

Human beings may get infected with hantaviruses through contact with rodent urine, saliva, or faeces.

Family: Hantaviridae
Scientific name: Hantavirus
Class: Ellioviricetes
Order: Bunyavirales
Rank: Genus
Higher classification: Bunyaviridae
Lower classifications: Sin Nombre orthohantavirus, Puumala virus, Black Creek Canal orthohantavirus, Thailand virus

Symptoms

Species of hantaviruses from the family Hantaviridae cause haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) is a group of clinically similar illnesses. It is also known as Korean hemorrhagic fever, epidemic hemorrhagic fever, and nephropathia epidemics.

The species that cause HFRS include Hantaan, Dobrava-Belgrade, Saaremaa, Seoul, and Puumala. It is found in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

In hantavirus-induced haemorrhagic fever, incubation time is two to four weeks in humans before symptoms develop. Their severity depends on the viral load.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is found in North, Central and South America. It is an often fatal pulmonary disease. In the United States, the causative agent is the Sin Nombre virus, which deer mice carry.

Prodromal symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, muscle pain, headache, and lethargy. One may see a sudden onset of shortness of breath with rapidly evolving pulmonary oedema that is often fatal despite intervention with mechanical ventilation and potent diuretics. The fatality rate is 36%.

Vaccine

There is no FDA-approved, commercially available vaccine against hantavirus. A vaccine known as Hantavax has been under study since 1990.

As of 2016, the development was in clinical phase 3 trial stage. This inactivated vaccine is thought not to be effective against European hantaviruses like the Puumala (PUUV) virus.

Treatment

Ribavirin may be a drug for HPS and HFRS but its effectiveness remains unknown, still, spontaneous recovery is possible with supportive treatment. People with suspected hantavirus infection may be admitted to the hospital, given oxygen and mechanical ventilation support to help them breathe during the acute pulmonary stage with severe respiratory distress.

Immunotherapy, administration of human neutralizing antibodies during acute phases of Hantavirus, has only been studied in mice, hamsters, and rats. There are no reports of controlled clinical trials.

With inputs from Wikipedia

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