NEW DELHI: At a time when the world is scared out of its wits by the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, reports of a death in China due to a different kind of virus called ‘Hantavirus’ has stricken fear among the people. According to China’s Global Times, a man from Yunnan province had tested positive for the hantavirus on March 22 and died on his way back to Shandong Province. Apart from him, another 32 people also tested positive, the Global Times report said.
The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) states that the Hantavirus is a family of viruses spread mainly by rodents. It goes on to say that infection with any of the hantavirus can cause hantavirus disease in people.
“Hantaviruses in the Americas are known as “New World” hantaviruses and may cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Other hantaviruses, known as “Old World” hantaviruses, are found mostly in Europe and Asia and may cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS),” the CDC website said.
While the coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses in humans including common cold and more severe forms like SARS and MERS which are life-threatening. The virus is named after its shape which takes the form of a crown with protrusions around it and hence is known as coronavirus.
Hantavirus: How It is transmitted
Hantaviruses are not new and have been around for a while. It is transmitted to people when they breathe in infected rodents’ droppings, urine or saliva.
The virus is inhaled and reaches the lungs where it wreaks havoc. It begins to invade tiny blood vessels called capillaries, eventually causing them to leak. The lungs then flood with fluid, which can trigger any of the respiratory problems associated with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
Also, the disease is not native or restricted to China. There have been outbreaks in both north and south America and Korea, as per the CDC.
The Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome advances through two distinct stages – the first is characterised by flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, headaches and muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea or abdominal pain. In this early stage, Hantavirus is difficult to distinguish from influenza, pneumonia or other viral conditions. But after four to 10 days, more serious signs and symptoms such as a cough that produces secretions, shortness of breath, fluid accumulation within the lungs, low blood pressure, and reduced heart efficiency.
Where as the exact source of infection of 2019 novel Coronavirus has not been identified. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals. Initially, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to large seafood and animal market, suggesting the virus likely emerged from an animal source.
Symptoms & Cure
The symptoms of the hantavirus are almost similar to that of coronavirus, it is essentially transmitted from rodents to humans and there is little evidence to prove it is transmitted by humans to humans like coronavirus. The treatment for Hantavirus is limited but early prognosis and hospitalization improves chances. The best method would be prevention, tackling of rodents problem, or wearing respirators.
Symptoms reported for patients with 2019-nCoV include acute onset of fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing.
Since COVID-19 is a new strain, there is no specific vaccine that can treat it. However, according to the WHO, “many of the symptoms can be treated & therefore treatment based on the patient’s clinical condition”. However, it has already killed over 10,000 globally. While clinical human trials are underway in the US to develop an effective vaccine, social distancing and precautions seems to be the only way to controlling the spread of the deadly virus.