Reader: Uh, it’s spelled c-o-r-o-n-a-v-i-r-u-s, actually.
Oh, this isn’t Covid-19. This is a completely different virus.
Reader: You mean that while most of the world is on lockdown, trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a completely different virus has killed a man in China?
Yes, that’s right. You’re not panicking, are you?
Reader: Of course not. I’m sure it’s not serious and the authorities will take the necessary precautions given what happened with the coronavirus.
Oh wow, that’s quite rational of you, dear reader. Yes, there’s absolutely no need to panic because the virus isn’t- you’re already lining up at Giant to buy toilet paper, aren’t you?
Reader: OF COURSE I AM, NOW THERE ARE TWO DEADLY DISEASES ON THE LOOSE AND NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO WORRY ABOUT MY DIRTY BUTT
Hey, hold your horses! Watch this video and you may not want to buy more toilet paper anymore:
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A Man in China Dies From Different Virus Called Hantavirus
The victim died while he was heading to his workplace in Shandong province on a chartered bus.
He later tested positive for hantavirus, according to a tweet from Global Times. The remaining 32 passengers on the bus were also tested, but their results are unknown.
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
So, what exactly is hantavirus, and should we be worried?
After all, people die from viruses daily and it could just be a typical seasonal flu virus, no?
Well, yes and no.
A Virus Spread from Rodents
Now, I’m sure you’re probably losing your mind, trying to figure out how two novel viruses emerged in less than four months.
But experts have pointed out that the hantavirus is not a new virus at all.
The hantavirus first surfaced in the 1950s in the American-Korean war in Korea (Hantan river).
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The virus can spread to humans from rodents if we ingest their body fluids, but the good news is that human to human transmission is rare, according to a tweet by Swedish scientist Dr Sumaiya Shaikh.
As Dr Shaikh said, there’s no need to panic, unless you eat rats.
Reader: *eating rat* Oh shit
The #Hantavirus first emerged in 1950s in the American-Korean war in Korea (Hantan river). It spreads from rat/mice if humans injest their body fluids. Human-human transmission is rare. There were even vaccines developed for it. Please do not panic, unless you plan to eat rats.
— Dr Sumaiya Shaikh (@Neurophysik) March 24, 2020
Rare but Often Fatal
If you simply can’t give up eating rats or mice because they’re so tasty, you should know that while the hantavirus is rare, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the virus has a death rate of 38%.
For comparison’s sake, SARS had a mortality rate of 10%, and about 3.4% of Covid-19 patients die (not that accurate yet as it’s merely based on the total number of detected cases).
According to the CDC, some of the symptoms mirror those from the coronavirus — with sufferers reporting fevers, headaches, coughing, and shortness of breath.
Symptoms may occur up to eight weeks “after exposure to fresh urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents,” the CDC says, adding it can occasionally also come from bites from infected rats or mice.
Rare Cases of Human Transmission
The CDC added that rare cases of human to human transmission have occurred in Chile and Argentina in the past, but it was a specific strain called the Andes virus.
There is no treatment, cure, or vaccine for hantavirus infection at the moment, and patients often need intensive care to “help them through the period of severe respiratory distress,” said the CDC.
So, if you have been around rodents and have symptoms of fever, deep muscle aches, and severe shortness of breath, you should see a doctor immediately.
But as long as you can restrain yourself from eating rats or ingesting their bodily fluids (which can be difficult because everyone knows how tasty they are), you’ll be fine.
There’s no need to panic, no need to stockpile on toilet paper, or spread misinformation about it on social media.
In other words, chill.
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