Amidst coronavirus pandemic that has gripped several countries across the world, the news of a man reportedly dying of ‘Hantavirus’ in China has been floating around.
After coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan in China, there is a lot of fear and panic observed on social media over a new hantavirus outbreak. Are we at risk of facing another pandemic? Let’s find out.
What is Hantavirus?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that rodents like mice or rats mainly spread pathogens of the hantavirus family. The CDC states: “Infection with any hantavirus can produce hantavirus disease in people.”
Each hantavirus strain is carried by a specific host species of rodents. The transmission of hantavirus is caused by contamination via animal’s urine, feces, and saliva travel in the air or an infected individual. In some rare cases, a person may catch hantavirus if bitten by an infected rodent.
It is also possible to catch hantavirus if you touch your mouth or nose after touching a surface that is contaminated with the urine, droppings, or saliva of an infected host. Consuming contaminated food can also cause the same.
Types of Hantavirus infection
Hantavirus can be classified into two: “New World” and “Old World” hantaviruses.
Those infected with the “New World” hantaviruses in the American continents develop a condition known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).
Whereas those infected with the “Old World” type are usually found in Europe or Asia, and they suffer from hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS).
One Hantavirus death reported in China
If you have come across the news of a man dying from hantavirus in China, it’s true. The man, from Yunnan Province, southwest China, died on Monday. He died on a bus while traveling to Shandong Province in the east.
Most of the hantavirus outbreak anxiety appears to stem from a tweet by Global Times, an English-language publication based in China.
A person from Yunnan Province died while on his way back to Shandong Province for work on a chartered bus on Monday. He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested. pic.twitter.com/SXzBpWmHvW
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 24, 2020
The deceased man was screened after he died and found positive for hantavirus infection. The other 32 people who were traveling on the same bus were also tested for the virus. Even though hantavirus is rarely passed from human to human, the results of these tests were unclear.
As of now, it is not clear how the deceased contracted the virus in the first place.
Should we be worried about a new ‘Hantavirus’ outbreak?
According to the CDC, hantaviruses in the U.S. cannot pass from person to person. Some rare instances of human-to-human transmission have been observed in Chile and Argentina. But in these cases, the people had close contact with those sick with the Andes virus.
Those who live in rural areas such as forests, fields or farms where the rodents live, usually tend to catch hantavirus. Even though it is rare, and this is an isolated case reported in China, it is not a new phenomenon. But to sum it up, you are not facing a risk of “hantavirus outbreak” — unless you are planning to eat rodents (I hope you don’t).