In the United States, most cases of
hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) are caused by one
strain of hantavirus primarily carried by the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). These rodents appear healthy but shed
the virus in their saliva, urine, and droppings. Deer mice are found in rural,
semirural, and suburban areas, but not usually in cities.
How the virus is spread
Experts believe that most
people become infected with hantaviruses by:
- Breathing in tiny airborne particles formed
when rodents urinate.
- Coming into direct
contact with infected rodent urine, saliva, or droppings.
exposed to dust particles contaminated with the virus.
- Being bitten
by a rodent infected with the virus (a rare source of infection).
There is no evidence that pregnant women infected with
hantavirus can spread the virus to their babies before or after birth or
Ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and other biting
insects are not known to carry or spread hantaviruses. In the U.S., cats and
dogs are not known to be carriers of hantavirus. Guinea pigs, hamsters,
gerbils, and other similar pets also are not known to carry
Contagious and incubation periods
In most cases,
the incubation period-the time between infection with the hantavirus and
development of symptoms of the infection-is believed to be 1 to 5 weeks.
A person who has HPS usually cannot spread the infection to another
person. Spread of hantavirus infection from one person to another has never
been documented in North America, but there has been one report in South
America (Argentina) of an outbreak of HPS that was spread by person-to-person
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