Man who died on a bus in China tests positive for deadly hantavirus that RATS spread to humans
- Diagnosis hits as China lifts quarantine restrictions designed to fight Covid-19
- Sparked panic on social media but medics say the hantavirus is nothing new
- Transmission between humans is rare but hantavirus kills 38 per cent of victims
- Comes from the droppings, saliva, urine and bites of infected rats and mice
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
A man who died on a bus in China has tested positive for a virus more fatal than Covid-19 that has very similar symptoms, state media reports.
The victim died on a vehicle in Shandong as he made his way to work and was found to be suffering from hantavirus.
News of the death comes just as the country is lifting quarantines implemented to deal with the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan.
The hantavirus is spread from infected rats who can infect humans by biting them (file image)
Yesterday the Global Times informed followers of the reason behind the worker’s death on social media, tweeting: ‘He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested.’
The incident has sparked panic across China, with #hantavirus trending on social media.
Experts have reassured the public that this is not a new virus and is thought to only pass through humans in rare circumstances, unlike Covid-19, which has sparked a pandemic.
Swedish scientist Dr Sumaiya Shaikh tweeted: ‘The #Hantavirus first emerged in 1950s in the American-Korean war in Korea (Hantan river).
‘It spreads from rat/mice if humans ingest their body fluids. Human-human transmission is rare. Please do not panic, unless you plan to eat rats.’
Although hantavirus is rare, it carries a 38 per cent death rate according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Patients wait in line outside the fever clinic of Wuhan Union Medical College Hospital for nucleic acid detection in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on Wednesday
Exposure to the urine, droppings or saliva of infected rodents can result in the virus being transmitted, as can bites from infected rats and mice.
The symptoms are remarkably similar to those present in patients battling Covid-19 and include shortness of breath, coughing, headaches and fevers.
One person who recovered from the hantavirus told the CDC that it felt like ‘a tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face’.
The CDC says: ‘In Chile and Argentina, rare cases of person-to-person transmission have occurred.
‘There is no specific treatment, cure, or vaccine for hantavirus infection,” the CDC warned, saying patients often need intensive care to “help them through the period of severe respiratory distress.”
‘Therefore, if you have been around rodents and have symptoms of fever, deep muscle aches, and severe shortness of breath, see your doctor immediately.’
WHAT IS HANTAVIRUS?
Hantavirus is found in rodents such as mice and rats.
Humans can contract the virus by coming into contact with infected rodent droppings, urine, saliva and nesting materials, and it can also be spread from person-to-person.
Diagnosis can be difficult because early symptoms often resemble other more common viruses such as the flu.
The virus can lead to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), a condition which infects the heart, lungs and other organs by weakening blood vessels and causing them to leak.
The body attempts to fight the virus by creating inflammation which, combined with the organ infection, leads to intense damage throughout the body.
In the lungs, leaky blood vessels cause flooding in the air sacs, making it difficult for patients to breathe.
When the virus infects the heart, the damage reduces the organ’s ability to circulate blood through the body. This causes critically low blood pressure and a lack of oxygen throughout the body, which can quickly lead to organ failure and death.
The virus is fatal in between 35 and 50 per cent of cases.