Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hantavirus Hits New Mexico

There are two new cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in McKinley county NM. The 59-year-old male and 29-year-old female are the seventh and eighth cases in the state this year, and the deadly disease has caused both of them to be hospitalized. Although there is no specific treatment available for the infection, early identification and treatment can lead to better survival rates in patients. Symptoms begin 1-6 weeks after exposure and progress from chills, fever, ache, painful abdomen, vomiting, diarrhea and cough to pulmonary distress. The illness has a 50% mortality rate. Out of the eight cases in New Mexico this year, four have died.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is caused by the sin nombre virus in bunyaviridae. Bunyaviridae is an enveloped, negative sense single stranded RNA virus with its genome spread over three segments. Hantavirus is a mouse-borne illness, but other bunyaviruses are arthropod-borne. Humans probably do not spread the virus to one another, instead they can catch it from mouse urine, feces, or saliva. Sin nombre virus was discovered relatively recently (1993) when there was an outbreak of HPS in the Four Corners of the US.  The virus was isolated from deer mice after several healthy young people died in succession of acute respiratory failure, but researchers believe that the virus is much older in origin. In fact, tissue samples from other deceased patients show that the virus had been in the population at low levels for years. Flare-ups of HPS occur when the population deer mice increases, allowing for more contact between them and humans. Lets hope that these are the last patients with Sin Nombre of the year, and that they are able to pull through.


Elisa Hofmeister ‘18

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