According to Google Trends, the hottest topic this week is “orthohantavirus” because parasitic websites claim it is the next pandemic on the horizon.
Take it from me: it isn’t.
This baseless claim circulating online highlights the need to get health information from reliable sources – and that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on social media. What is orthohantavirus
“Orthohantavirus” – commonly known as hantavirus – is a very, very rare virus. There have never been any confirmed human cases in Australia. The last two confirmed cases reported worldwide occurred in January Bolivia and Argentina.
It belongs to a class of diseases called zoonoses, which means that it is a virus transmitted from animals to humans. In this case, the animal in question is rodents (usually rats). Hantaviruses can cause serious illnesses, including bleeding and kidney failure. How is Hantavirus spread?
According to at the american centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), the hantavirus spreads from several species of rodents in urine, excrement and saliva. Transmission is thought to occur when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus.
CDC too reports:
- if a rodent with the virus bites someone, the virus can spread to that person, but this type of transmission is rare;
- scientists believe people can get the virus if they touch something that has been contaminated with urine, feces, or saliva from rodents, and then touch their nose or mouth;
- scientists also suspect people get sick if they eat food contaminated with the urine, feces or saliva of an infected rodent.
How much should I worry about hantavirus Not very.
In general, infectious disease specialists are concerned about zoonoses – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and Ebola are two important recent examples of animal-related diseases that have crossed the species barrier.
However, the hantavirus is not considered a big threat at the moment.
There is certainly no chatter among infectious disease doctors about hantavirus at this time. I don’t see anything of concern about this on any of my networks of researchers and mailing lists that prevent virus outbreaks.
There has recently been a report on a single case in China, but there is no evidence of any spread.
I think, for now, let’s focus on the pandemic we have – which is the coronavirus and also the annual flu season – rather than worrying about the rare viruses.
However, this epidemic of coronavirus and all of the above reinforces the fact that we need early warning systems to determine what might be threatening.
Yes, it is true that animals carry many viruses, but very few are found in humans.
The hantavirus is certainly not the one that concerns us particularly at this time.
Read more: How does coronavirus kill?