Understanding Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

What is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a disease that comes from contact with infected rodents or their urine, droppings or saliva. HPS first appeared as a "mystery" illness in the Southwestern United States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico) in the spring of 1993 and has since been identified throughout the United States.. About three-quarters of people with HPS have lived in rural areas.

The HPS infection cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Transmission can occur in any location infested by infected rodents, especially rats and mice.

How Serious is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome?

Although rare, HPS is potentially deadly.  There is no specific treatment for HPS, and there is no cure. But early diagnosis and treatment in an intensive care unit may improve a person's chances of recovery.

A person with HPS is given oxygen therapy to help them breathe. The earlier treatment is started, the more successful it is likely to be. If a person is brought into the hospital while in severe respiratory distress, it is less likely the treatment will work.

Through March 2007, a total of 465 cases of HPS were reported in the United States. Death has resulted in 35 percent of cases reported.