Great news everyone! Hantavirus is back in town.
Taiwan’s Kaohsiung City Health Department reported a case of hantavirus back in March, but the great news is that it gets better. This particular individual developed hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). HFRS adds a new layer of excitement to the run-of-the-mill hemorrhagic fever symptoms that anyone can get. The addition of renal complications and fluid loss through over-production of urine complicates and already messy treatment. Fluids are usually administered to hemorrhagic fever patients, but must be especially monitored in those with HFRS, since their kidneys have lost all sense of what to do.
April saw the confirmation of a third case of hantavirus in the same city as the patient in March. It’s probably not worth panicking quite yet, since Taiwan has only had about 19 cases of hantavirus infection since 2001. But the incidence of three separate infections this year has some officials at the CDC monitoring the island nation. Hantavirus also recently popped up in New Mexico and Montana, but have so far been limited to single digit infections. However, one patient in New Mexico did recently die, but it is unclear if this was due to the virus or his age.
Hantavirus is an exciting variation on the traditional hemorrhagic fever. Instead of bleeding from every orifice in your body, fluid accumulates in the lungs. Shortness of breath following a flu-like illness is a fairly good indicator of a possible hantavirus infection, especially if the patient has had contact with rodents of any kind. Those cute little mice in your back yard carry hantavirus, which becomes aerosolized in their feces. So if having hantavirus wasn’t enough, you now have to live with the fact that you breathed in mouse poop. Gross.