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001-Hantavirus – California Association For Medical Laboratory Technology

Prof. Biol. Emerita – University of San Francisco

Approved for 2.0 CE
Level of Difficulty: Intermediate


Newly recognized viral diseases continue to be discovered throughout the world. Some of these diseases are severe and life-threatening and are caused by viruses that are highly infectious. Although symptoms may vary, many newly recognized viruses cause hemorrhagic fevers with high case-fatality rates. Identification and control of this group of viruses had been relegated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Special Pathogens Branch Laboratory. The laboratory is a Biosafety Level 4 facility with the ability to safely handle highly infectious agents. Viruses investigated at the Special Pathogens Branch Laboratory include agents of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Marburg hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, hantaviruses, and arenaviruses. Hantaviruses have been categorized by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) as high priority pathogens that pose a risk to national security because of easy transmission and high case-fatality rate. CDC has assigned hantaviruses to the category of agents that can be engineered for mass dissemination.

All of the agents studied at the Special Pathogens Branch Laboratory are RNA viruses (the viral genetic information is RNA-coded). These viruses are encased in a lipid envelope and show some degree of aerosol infectivity in the laboratory. Additionally, all of these agents are either vector-borne or are zoonotic (human infection is acquired from an animal host).

The mission of the CDC Special Branch Laboratory is to develop diagnostic methods, collect information on epidemiology of special viral pathogens, respond to disease outbreaks, and offer assistance in detection, control, and prevention of these highly infectious diseases.


After completing this course the participant will be able to:

1. Discuss hantaviruses and their role in human disease.
2. Describe the natural reservoir of hantavirus infection.
3. Outline geographic distribution of hantaviruses.
4. Summarize prevalence of hantavirus infection in different geographic areas.
5. Discuss classification of hantaviruses and their principal characteristics.
6. Outline transmission of hantaviruses within the animal reservoir and from natural host to human host.
7. Discuss diseases caused by hantaviruses
8. Describe methods used in laboratory diagnosis of hantavirus infections.
9. Summarize prevention and treatment of hantavirus disease.