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Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Treatment and Prevention

How Hantavirus Is Treated

There is no specific treatment for hantavirus infection. However, if the virus is caught early and the patient receives medical care in an intensive care unit (ICU), they will likely improve. Treatment in the ICU is mostly supportive and may include intubation and oxygen therapy, fluid replacement and use of medications to support blood pressure.

Sometimes antiviral drugs, such as ribavirin, are used to treat other strains of hantavirus and associated infections. However, no large trials have proven them to work, but doctors may try in very severe cases.

Recovery can be slow, and patients often complain about weakness, fatigue and impaired exercise tolerance.

Preventing Hantavirus

The best approach to HPS is preventing it by minimizing exposure to rodents.

  • Seal up (using cement or other patching material) holes or cracks through which rodents may gain entry to your home or work environment. Remember, they can get through openings that are much smaller than you may think.
  • Identify potential nesting sites and carefully clean up debris, clear bushes and trap rodents to remove them. When cleaning up, wear protective gear and be extremely careful not to stir up the virus by sweeping waste and debris. Instead, wet down dead rodents and areas where rodents have been with alcohol, household disinfectants or bleach before using a towel to remove the debris. Then mop the area with disinfectant.
  • Open and aerate any closed rodent-infested spaces before entering them. Wear a respirator when cleaning buildings with heavy rodent infestations.
  • Heavily infested areas should be brought to the attention of the relevant state or federal health officials before cleaning.

Finding Support

You can call the Lung Association’s Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA to talk to a trained respiratory professional who can help answer your questions and connect you with additional support.

Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: March 12, 2020

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