Which Mice Carry Hantavirus? – Izabela’s Student Essay

Hantavirus is a virus carried by rodents that causes various febrile hemorrhagic diseases that usually affect the kidneys, to the point of failure in some cases. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, and could progress to coughing and shortness of breath 4-10 days after initial symptoms are present.

While there are nearly 1,100 different mice species, only a small portion of those can transmit hantavirus to humans. Specifically, only 15-20% of deer mice are infected with hantavirus, and an even smaller percentage are able to transmit it to humans.

In North America, the deer mouse and white-footed mouse have been reported to transmit HPS to humans in the past. Rice rats and cotton rats are rodents, like mice, that are also able to transmit HPS to humans. Hantavirus is present in the urine, droppings, and saliva of mice, so humans are able to contract the virus if they are in close enough proximity to breathe it in, or come in contact with an infected surface.

Hantavirus could be fatal, with a reported mortality rate of nearly 40%, and many survivors report feeling as if there was a tight band wrapped around their chest. Hantavirus could also cause a rare but deadly disease called “Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome”.

This is a fatal respiratory disease that causes the blood vessels in the body to “leak”, which floods the air sacs in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. If the virus is able to reach your heart, it then compromises the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.

However, whatever blood is able to circulate the body, is infected with the virus and therefore, begins to affect the kidneys and other organs.

While the CDC has been able to identify 728 cases of HPS in the United States, not a single one was reported to be as a result of transmission between humans. Since the virus is only viable in a natural setting for 2-3 days and dies soon after being exposed to the sun, it is very difficult for it to spread unless there is a large number of infected mice in a concentrated area that someone is repetitively in contact with.

Author: Izabela Monzon – Arizona State University

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