Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a rare, but frequently fatal disease of the lungs. The virus is spread by rodents, primarily deer mice, due to breathing in dust contaminated with rodent droppings, urine, or saliva. Hantavirus is not spread from human to human. When you are in areas or places that harbor mice, you can take the following steps to prevent a Hantavirus infection:

  • Avoid touching live or dead rodents or disturbing rodent burrows, dens or nests.
  • Keep food in tightly sealed containers (including food stored in bear boxes).
  • Take care not to stir up dust.
  • Minimize storage of luggage and other materials on floors.
  • Contact housekeeping or maintenance if signs of rodents are present, including feces or urine.
  • Avoid sleeping on bare ground. Use a tent with a floor or a cot with a sleeping surface at least 12 inches above the ground.
  • Dispose of all trash and garbage promptly in rodent-proof trash containers or pack it out in rodent-proof containers.

Early medical attention can greatly increase the chance that a patient infected with Hantavirus will survive. If you present symptoms of Hantavirus infection contact your healthcare provider immediately. Symptoms may develop between one and five weeks after exposure.

Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups-thighs, hips, back and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal. There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.

Late symptoms: Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a "…tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face" as the lungs fill with fluid.

For additional information on preventing Hantavirus, visit:

Last updated: September 14, 2012

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