South Dakota Department of Health
Office of Disease Prevention - 605-773-3737 — (1-800-592-1861 in South Dakota only)
This material is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute
for medical care. We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your
health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment or other medical advice.
What is hantavirus?
Hantavirus is a potentially deadly disease caused by a virus carried by rodents. Hantavirus can cause Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) which causes the lungs to fill with fluid and can cause respiratory failure.
The hantavirus was first detected in 1993 in the Four Corners area of the southwestern United States. Since 1993, approximately 400 cases have been reported in the United States. South Dakota has reported a total of 13 cases of HPS since 1993, 69% of which have been East River and 31% West River.
Who gets hantavirus infection?
You can be young or old, male or female, any race, living almost anywhere to be exposed to the hantavirus. Anything that puts you in contact with rodent droppings, urine, or nesting materials is a risk for HPS.
What are the symptoms of hantavirus infection?
If a person is infected with hantavirus, symptoms will usually appear within two weeks of exposure. Early symptoms are fatigue, fever (101-104°), and muscle aches. About half of the people infected with hantavirus will also develop headaches, dizziness, chills, and gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath.
If you have been around rodents and have symptoms of fever, deep muscle aches and severe shortness of breath, see your doctor immediately. Be sure to tell your doctor that you have been around rodents - this will alert your doctor to look closely for any rodent-carried disease such as HPS.
How is hantavirus spread?
Hantavirus infection is a serious, life-threatening illness caused by breathing in the hantavirus. The virus is shed by infected rodents in their urine, droppings, and saliva. When fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials are stirred up, tiny dust particles containing the virus get into the air which can be inhaled. You cannot get hantavirus from another person.
What is the treatment for hantavirus infection?
There is no specific treatment for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. If the symptoms are recognized early, the patient should be taken to an intensive care unit. The earlier the patient is brought into intensive care, the better. In intensive care, patients are intubated and given oxygen to help them through the period of severe respiratory distress.
How do I prevent Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?
Rodent control in and around the home is the best way to prevent hantavirus infection. Eliminate or minimize contact with rodents in the home and especially when cleaning outbuildings. Construction or utility workers who work in crawl spaces may be at risk and campers and hikers should try to avoid rodent infested areas.