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Quick Facts

Hantavirus Infection


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2020
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What is hantavirus?

Hantavirus is a viral infection spread by the urine and droppings of mice and rats. Hantavirus can cause life-threatening lung and kidney infections.

  • You can get hantavirus by breathing air that's contaminated by infected rodent (rat or mouse) urine or droppings

  • Hantavirus causes fever, headache, muscle aches, and problems with your lungs or kidneys

  • Severe hantavirus infection can be fatal

What causes hantavirus infection?

Hantavirus infects wild rodents throughout the world. There are different types of hantavirus in different parts of the world.

Depending on the type you have, the virus affects different organs.

Lungs: The type of hantavirus in the western United States and Central and South America usually causes a lung infection that causes a cough, trouble breathing, and fluid in your lungs.

Kidneys: The type of hantavirus in Korea and Europe usually causes a rash and belly pain and can stop your kidneys from working.

What are the symptoms of hantavirus?

Early symptoms of hantavirus:

  • Fever

  • Headache and muscle aches

  • Sometimes, belly pain, vomiting, or diarrhea

These early symptoms continue for about 4 days, sometimes longer. Then, you may have other symptoms depending on the type of hantavirus.

When your lungs are affected:

  • Cough and trouble breathing that gets worse over a few hours

  • Low blood pressure

Hantavirus infection that affects your lungs can be deadly.

When your kidneys are affected:

  • Sometimes, blood in your urine or stool or bruises on your skin

  • Sometimes, confusion leading to coma

How can doctors tell if I have hantavirus?

Doctors suspect hantavirus if you have symptoms and you’ve been around rodents and their droppings.

  • To know for sure, they'll do blood tests

  • If you have a cough or trouble breathing, they may do a chest x-ray and echocardiography (ultrasound of your heart)

How do doctors treat hantavirus?

Doctors will treat your symptoms.

If you have the type of hantavirus that affects your lungs, doctors will:

  • Give you oxygen to help you breathe

  • Sometimes, put you on a ventilator to help you breathe

If you have the type of hantavirus that affects your kidneys, doctors will:

  • Have you take an antiviral medicine that may help lessen your symptoms

  • Sometimes, give you kidney dialysis (uses a machine to filter wastes from your blood because your kidneys aren’t able to)

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