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Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a lung infection caused by viruses found in the saliva, urine, and droppings of some rodents. The illness is rare but can be deadly.
Most cases of HPS in the U.S. are caused by one type of hantavirus found in the deer mouse. People can become infected by:
North America has never had a known case of one person spreading the illness to another. And people do not get HPS from farm animals, pets, or insects. But your pet may bring home an infected rodent.
Symptoms usually start 2 to 3 weeks after a person has been exposed to the virus. Early symptoms may include:
You quickly will become very sick. Within a few days, you'll start to have more serious symptoms, such as:
After a person with HPS starts having trouble breathing, he or she may die within hours. Most deaths occur within 1 to 2 days after severe breathing problems begin. About 4 out of 10 people who get HPS do not survive.footnote 1
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms, past health, and exposure to rodents. You may have other tests, such as chest X-rays, a complete blood count, and an oxygen saturation test.
Your doctor will know for sure that you have HPS only if you have the signs of HPS and if tests show that the virus is or has been in your blood or tissues.
HPS requires treatment in a hospital right away, even if the case is mild. You will get treatment to support you through the illness, such as intravenous (IV) fluids and medicines. You may need a ventilator to help you breathe.
People who survive the illness usually recover quickly. Most are able to leave the hospital after 7 days.
The best way to prevent hantavirus infection is to avoid contact with rodents and their droppings. If you live in or visit an area where the viruses have been found:
Learning about hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS):
CitationsNational Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Reported cases of HPS. Hantaviruses. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/surveillance/index.html.Other Works ConsultedAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (2015). Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. In DW Kimberlin et al., eds., Red Book: 2015 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 30th ed., pp. 376-379. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerLeslie Tengelsen, PhD, DVM -
Current as ofMarch 29, 2017
Current as of: March 29, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & Leslie Tengelsen, PhD, DVM -
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