Hanta Pulmonary Syndrome Essay, Research Paper
Hanta Pulmonary Syndrome
The Hanta Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) is a disease that has emerged in North America only recently. Its source is a virus carried by rodents, particularly the deer mouse, and transmitted by direct contact with their droppings. Symptoms appear within the one to six weeks of initial exposure, and initially include muscle aches, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. After a while, the victim may experience shortness of breath and coughing resulting from decreased circulation in the lungs and a lowered white blood cell count coupled with opportunistic infections. At this stage if they are not brought to a hospital soon they stand the risk of dying within the next twenty-four hours.
This disease, although not new, has experienced a large re-emergence in the southwestern United States and Mexico due to the arid climates in those areas. Cases have been spread all over the western U.S. with even a few in the east, but nearly half of the cases to date have been in the Four Corners area. In a dry area, the disease s incubation is somewhat longer, making the chances of contracting it somewhat higher. In places such as woodpiles and sheds where there is little air circulation to move off the virus, it can linger for a sizeable duration of time.
The best method of fighting the hanta virus is prevention. By controlling the rodent population and preventing them from entering houses and sheds, the risk of infection can be lowered. Furthermore, educating those in high-risk areas of the signs of the disease and what to do about them significantly lowers the likelihood of death.
The virus cannot spread from human to human even during its peak state, but since exposed persons may not show symptoms for some weeks the likelihood of other people becoming infected by the same source is considerable. For this reason it is important that those living in areas where it is or may be present know how to avoid contracting it. This includes allowing sheds and other closed areas to ventilate well before entering them, checking for signs of rodent infestations, and minimizing factors that attract rodents.
The potential threat of this deadly pathogen is frightening, and quite real. Its lack of spread so far is only due to the relatively small range of its primary carriers, mice. However, much as the black plague was carried everywhere on the backs of rats, this has the same capability to infect many people as soon as it hits a major population center.