International travel and health

Hantavirus diseases

Hantavirus diseases are viral infections; important examples are haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).

Cause

Hantaviruses, which belong to the Bunyaviridae family.

Transmission

Hantaviruses are carried by various species of rodents; specific viruses have particular rodent hosts. Infection occurs through direct contact with the faeces, saliva or urine of infected rodents or by inhalation of the virus in rodent excreta.

Nature of the disease

Hantavirus diseases are acute viral diseases in which the vascular endothelium is damaged, leading to increased vascular permeability, hypotension, haemorrhagic manifestations and shock. Impaired renal function with oliguria is characteristic of HFRS. Respiratory failure caused by acute non-cardiogenic pulmonary oedema occurs in HPS. The outcome is fatal in up to 15% of HFRS cases and up to 50% of HPS cases.

Geographical distribution

Worldwide, in rodents.

Risk for travellers

Very low for most travellers. However, travellers may be at risk in any environment where rodents are present in large numbers and contact may occur.

Prophylaxis

None.

Precautions

Avoid exposure to rodents and their excreta. Adventure travellers, backpackers, campers and travellers with occupational exposure to rodents in countries or areas at risk for hantaviruses should take precautions to exclude rodents from tents or other accommodation and to protect all food from contamination by rodents.

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