Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Will the real hantavirus please stand up?

deer mousePeople often talk about "the" hantavirus. In the US, often they are referring to Sin Nombre virus, which was first recognized in connection with a 1993 outbreak of ARDS in the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. Infection occurs through contact with infected rodents, their urine and droppings, or the remains of infected rodents.

It's important to recognize, however, that SNV is one of several New World hantaviruses circulating in the US. Others include Bayou virus, Black Creek Canal virus, Monongahela virus, and New York virus.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a reportable disease in the US. A recent study by Knust and Rollin showed that in two decades of surveillance, over 600 cases of HPS have been reported. More than 90% of those cases occurred in western states, and most cases were associated with SNV, though cases caused by these other viruses were also reported.

There is much information at the CDC site on hantaviruses and in the medical literature. The diversity and distribution of hantaviruses in South America and other parts of the world is also complex.

So, when you hear people talk about "the" hantavirus, perhaps you could capitalize on the teachable moment?

(image source: CDC)

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