What Is Hantavirus? Man in China Tests Positive After Dying of Infection Spread by Rodents

A man in China has reportedly died after catching hantavirus. The man, from Yunnan Province, southwest China, died on Monday while traveling to Shandong Province in the east, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.

It appeared the man was screened for the bug after he died. A further 32 people on the bus he was onboard were tested for the virus, which is rarely passed from human to human. The results of the tests were unclear. The individual was not named in the report, and his cause of death was not stated.

A person from Yunnan Province died while on his way back to Shandong Province for work on a chartered bus on Monday. He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested. pic.twitter.com/SXzBpWmHvW

— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 24, 2020

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, members of the family of hantavirus pathogens are mainly spread by rodents. "Infection with any hantavirus can produce hantavirus disease in people," the CDC stated.

Each strain of hantavirus is linked with a host species of rodent, the agency explained. Hantaviruses are passed on in what is known as airborne transmission, when virus particles from the animal's urine, feces, and saliva travel in the air and infect an individual. In rare cases, a person may catch hantavirus if they are bitten by an infected animal. It is possible to catch the virus if a person touches their mouth or nose after handling a surface contaminated with the urine, droppings or saliva of a host, as well as eating contaminated food, experts believe.

A person infected with what are known as "New World" hantaviruses in the Americas can develop what is known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), while the "Old World" type found in Europe or Asia can trigger hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS). It is not clear whether the man developed either of these conditions.

The CDC states that hantaviruses in the U.S. cannot be passed from person to person, while rare instances of human-to-human transmission have been documented in Chile and Argentina in people who have had close contact with those sick with the Andes virus.

People tend to catch hantavirus in rural areas such as forests, fields or farms where the rodent carriers live, according to the public health body.

The symptoms of potentially deadly HPS include fatigue, fever and muscle aches—particularly in the thighs, back, hips, and less often the shoulders. A person may also feel dizzy, have a headache, chills, as well as vomit, and experience diarrhea and stomach pain. Between four to 10 days after the first phase, a person can develop shortness of breath, a cough, and their lungs may fill with fluid. One patient told the CDC having HPS felt like a "tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face." Of those who get the condition, 38 percent die.

In cases of HFRS, a person's symptoms will come on quickly. These include back and stomach pain as well as headaches, chills, nausea and a fever. Their vision may also blur, and their face may become flushed or inflamed. This can be followed by low blood pressure, as well as acute shock, vascular leakage and acute kidney failure. Depending on the hantavirus causing HFRS, between 1 to 15 percent of patients die.

The man's death comes amid the outbreak of a new coronavirus which is thought to have jumped to humans from bats or pangolins. The virus, which causes COVID-19, has since spread from China to every continent except Antarctica.