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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Definition and Risk for Infection
An illness resulting from infection with hantavirus. Certain species of deer mice carry the hantavirus, which they shed in their droppings, urine, and saliva. People who come into contact with these excretions, which may be through direct touch or inhalation, may then acquire infection with the virus.
Deer mice live primarily in wooded areas. Most often a person acquires the infection after cleaning in barns and outbuildings where mouse droppings can accumulate; the cleaning stirs up dust that carries the virus into the respiratory tract.
People who go camping in areas where there are large populations of deer mice also are at risk for infection.
Symptoms and Treatment
The incubation period (time between exposure and illness) is one to three weeks. symptoms emerge abruptly and include fever, severe muscle aches (particularly in the large muscles of the legs and back), and shortness of breath (dyspnea) that rapidly progresses to respiratory failure.
A blood test can show the presence of antibodies to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment is hospitalization, usually in an intensive care unit, to provide support for breathing while the virus runs its course. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a very serious infection with a high fatality rate. Early, aggressive medical support offers the best potential for successful recovery.
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