Hantaviruses, transmitted to people by infected rodents, are part of the Bunyavirales order of viruses and can cause either hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) or hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Hantaviruses that cause HFRS are found throughout the world, while those that cause HPS, including the Sin Nombre hantavirus, are found in the Americas. Early symptoms of both HRFS and HPS include fever, chills, headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, and muscle soreness. A more developed infection causes coagulation, vasodilation, and changes in the capillary membranes, resulting in damage to lungs, kidneys, and other organs. Hantavirus diagnoses are most commonly confirmed by serology.
Quick Answers for Clinicians
Because early symptoms of hantavirus infection are vague and similar to those of the flu (fever, chills, nausea, muscle aches), testing should be performed only for symptomatic individuals who also have a history of rodent exposure. An individual with appropriate symptoms, rodent exposure, AND shortness of breath should see a healthcare professional immediately. These are indications of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).
Indications for Testing
Individuals with symptoms of hantavirus infection and a history of exposure to a rodent or its droppings, urine, or nest, should be tested for confirmation. See the CDC HPS 2015 case definition for more information on HPS.
A positive test result for a patient with compatible history is considered diagnostic. See the CDC Diagnostics page for more information on available testing.
The current commercially available serologic test detects combined IgG and IgM antibodies but does not distinguish subtype. For subtyping (eg, Sin Nombre or Seoul virus), refer to state or local health departments.
Immunohistochemical (IHC) testing is available for tissue samples. See the CDC Hantavirus Histopathology page for more information.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS): diagnosis & treatment. [Last Reviewed: Aug 2012; Accessed: Feb 2020]Online
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hantavirus: diagnostics. [Last Reviewed: Aug 2012; Accessed: Feb 2020]Online
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