Experts are seeking to allay fears that the death of a man in China due to hantavirus suggests that the coronavirus is about to be joined by another pandemic.
The unidentified victim from Yunan province died while traveling on a bus to work in Shandong province, sparking the hashtag #hantavirus and widespread panic that another major killer was in the offing.
But scientists were quick to stress that the hantavirus is not new – and has only rarely believed to have been passed between humans, unlike COVID-19.
Hantaviruses cases are rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and spread through close contact with rodent droppings, urine and saliva, USA Today reported.
Certain kinds of rodents in the US can carry the virus, which is transmitted when someone inhales contaminated air.
“The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another,” the CDC says on its website.
In some rare cases in Argentina and Chile, there has been person-to-person transmission when someone is in close contact with an individual who has a type of hantavirus called Andes virus, according to the agency.
In the US, the virus can cause a potentially fatal respiratory illness called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, USA Today reported.
Its symptoms include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills and abdominal problems. When the lungs fill with liquid during the later stages, coughing and shortness of breath can occur.
From 1993 to 2017, there were only 728 confirmed hantavirus cases in the US, most of which were not fatal, according to the CDC.
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