Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Diagnosis and Tests
How is hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose hantavirus with several tests. Blood tests identify proteins (antibodies) associated with the virus.
Blood tests can also reveal signs of the disease. These signs may include larger-than-normal white blood cells and an abnormally low amount of platelets (a substance that helps blood clot). Your doctor may also check the oxygen levels in your blood.
Be sure to tell your physician if you have had recent contact with rodents or their droppings. This information will let your doctor know to test for HPS and other diseases carried by rodents.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome Diagnosis and Tests
Diagnosing HPS in an individual who has only been infected a few days is difficult because early symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, and fatigue are easily confused with influenza. However, if the individual is experiencing fever and fatigue and has a history of potential rural rodent exposure, together with shortness of breath, it would be strongly suggestive of HPS. If the individual is experiencing these symptoms they should see their physician immediately and mention their potential rodent exposure.
Are there any complications?
Previous observations of patients that develop HPS from New World Hantaviruses recover completely. No chronic infection has been detected in humans. Some patients have experienced longer than expected recovery times, but the virus has not been shown to leave lasting effects on the patient.
There is no specific treatment, cure, or vaccine for hantavirus infection. However, we do know that if infected individuals are recognized early and receive medical care in an intensive care unit, they may do better. In intensive care, patients are intubated and given oxygen therapy to help them through a period of severe respiratory distress.
The earlier the patient is brought in to intensive care, the better. If a patient is experiencing full distress, it is less likely the treatment will be effective.
Therefore, if you have been around rodents and have symptoms of fever, deep muscle aches, and severe shortness of breath, see your doctor immediately. Be sure to tell your doctor that you have been around rodents—this will alert your physician to look closely for any rodent-carried disease, such as HPS.
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