Hantaviruses are a group of viral infections that are disseminated by rodents. Two main categories of the virus are the “New World” strains found in the Americas and the “Old World” type that is common in Europe and Asia. The former type causes hantavirus pulmonary symptoms (HPS), whereas the latter results in hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2019). Tularemia, conversely, is a bacterial infection caused by the microbe Francisella tularensis (CDC, 2018). This bacterium affects humans and animals, especially rodents, hares, and rabbits.
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Specific rodent species spread precise hantavirus serotypes. Contagion happens through vaporized viruses that are introduced into the saliva, urine, or feces of infected rodents and inhaled by humans. Bites from infected hosts can also spread the disease. The inhaled viruses are dispersed to the lungs and other tissues within the endothelium of capillaries and cause respiratory distress. At-risk populations include people with many rodents in their households. Cleaning or accessing periodically closed buildings can also cause infection. Therefore, household cleaners are at a high risk of infection. The disease does not spread from one person to another.
Tularemia disseminates through bites from insects such as deer fly and ticks and touching infected animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that breathing in contaminated air or taking polluted water can also cause the disease. Laboratory exposure can occur to scientists working with infected animals (2007). At-risk populations include campers, researchers, and anybody with exposure to outdoor environments. However, no human-to-human infection is documented. Tularemia can be aerosolized and spread as a biological weapon. Inflammation of the affected tissue is the most common indication of the disorder.
Significance on Communities
Hantavirus diseases and tularemia are rare diseases. However, they can be fatal because of their effect on the respiratory system (HPS) and fluid and electrolyte balance (HFRS). Tularemia can be life-threatening based on the organs affected or the extent of the damage. These diseases increase the rate of morbidity and mortality in the community. Nonetheless, their effects are minimized by the absence of human-to-human transmission.
Current Steps for Prevention
Hantavirus can be prevented by minimizing contact with rodents by making the surroundings inhospitable. For example, holes and gaps in buildings should be sealed. High standards of hygiene eliminate food items that attract rodents. Disinfection of areas with rodent droppings reduces the risk of infection. Rubber gloves and masks should be worn to protect against exposure. Trapping rodents also helps to reduce their numbers and the likelihood of infection (WHO, 2019). Spaces that are notorious for harboring rodents should be aired before being accessed. Food safety measures should be observed at home and during camping.
Tularemia can be prevented by using insect repellents or insecticides to get rid of insects. Protective clothing such as socks, pants, and long sleeves should be worn to prevent insect bites. Other preventive measures include donning gloves when touching sick or dead animals, thorough cooking of game meat, and using masks during landscaping activities such as mowing (WHO, 2007). Surface water should always be treated before drinking. Pets such as rodents and rabbits should be monitored for unusual symptoms.
Currently, there are no protective measures such as vaccines against hantavirus or tularemia. However, a vaccine for tularemia is under development but is yet to be approved (CDC, 2018).
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The CDC has a national program that looks into the epidemiology of tularemia and works on the development of cutting-edge diagnostic tools (CDC, 2018). Informative programs for healthcare workers, the media, and the public have also been developed. The CDC is also building up stocks of antibiotics in the eventuality of a bioterrorism incident. Training information for medical providers and healthcare workers, as well as hantavirus prevention guidelines for campers and tourists, have also been developed by the CDC (2017). The CDC has established a Nationally Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS) for the reporting of hantaviruses and tularemia to facilitate prompt treatment.
CDC. (2017). Prevent hantavirus pulmonary syndrome: A guide for tourists, campers, and hikers. Web.
CDC. (2018). Tularemia: Frequently asked questions. Web.
CDC. (2019). Hantavirus. Web.
WHO. (2007). WHO Guidelines on Tularaemia. Web.
WHO. (2019). Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome – Argentine republic. Web.