Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

 The Hantavirus (top)

Hantavirus vector (bottom)




“Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a deadly disease caused by rodents. Humans can contract the disease when they come into contact with infected rodents or their urine and droppings. HPS was first recognized in 1993 and has since been identified throughout the United States. Although rare, HPS is potentially deadly. Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing Hantavirus infection.



There are a wide variety of symptoms for HPS.

Some of them include:  muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, rapid heart rate, chills, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Shortness of breath can rapidly become severe when lungs fill up with bloody fluid.

It is important to keep a close eye on your blood pressure, because if blood pressure drops patients will soon require mechanical breathing machines.

Serious kidney disease may also develop.

Death occurs by an average of 5 days as a result of heart and lung failure.

 Deer Mouse

 Cotton Rat


In the United States, deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats, and white-footed mice carry the Hantavirus that causes HPS.

 Rice Rat

 White-Footed Mouse


A rodent spreads the virus through their urine, droppings, and saliva. 


There are several ways rodents may spread Hantavirus to people:

  • A person breathes in contaminated air
  • If a rodent with the virus bites someone, the virus may be spread to that person (very rare)
  • People may be able to get the virus if they touch something that has been contaminated with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva, and then go on to touch their nose or mouth.
  • People can become sick if they eat food contaminated by urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected rodent.

You CAN NOT contract the virus from another person. It is strictly animal to human transmission.

The average incubation period of the disease is 2 to 3 weeks.




  • Keep a clean home, especially kitchen by washing dishes, cleaning counters and floors, and keeping food covered in rodent- proof containers.
  • Keep a tight-fitting lid on garbage and discard uneaten pet food at the end of the day
  • Put out EPA approved rodenticide to kill pests
  • Set out and maintain rodent traps around baseboards
  • Seal all entry holes that are 1/4 inch wide or more
  • Place rodents traps around the home
  • Use rodenticide to kill off any pests



  • Clear brush, grass and junk from around house foundations to eliminate a source for nesting
  • Elevate hay, woodpiles and garbage cans to eliminate possible nesting sites. If possible, locate them 100 feet or more from your house
  • Set out traps and place rodenticide around barns, sheds, and cottages
  • Clear out brush and tall grass to ensure that rodents will not nest, live, & reproduce around your home
  • Elevate wood piles to eliminate nesting sites


It is important the you DO NOT stir up dust by sweeping up or vacuuming up droppings, urine or nesting materials because then you may breathe in the virus.

Thoroughly wet contaminated areas with detergent or liquid to deactivate the virus. Most general purpose disinfectants and household detergents are effective.

Once everything is wet, take up contaminated materials with a damp towel, then mop or sponge the area with disinfectant.


The Effect of Global Warming on Hantavirus

With climate change, the number of mice that are expected to live, reproduce and infest human structures will increase. (With that comes a greater chance of disease transmission.)

El Nino is said to have an impact on the spread of the Hantavirus:

“The only time a dry land … farmer is ever going to have an overabundance of food is when they have an overabundance of moisture and the right conditions for growing without the aid of irrigation, and that points to El Niños.”

With an abundance of food come masses of rodents such as the deer mouse to feed on crops. 

When the animals defecate, their feces and urine are left around a farmer’s house, land, and property. 

Also, with increase in drought seasons and drier climates, animal droppings will dry faster and will lead to the probability of the Hantavirus to be spread through the air easier.

“Using models formed from the 1993 infectious disease outbreak, predictions can be made about increased risk for Hantavirus following years with El Niño conditions.”



Number of Cases per state in the United States- 2006

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