Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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How is hantavirus pulmonary syndrome diagnosed?

Currently, there are no readily available tests to diagnose HPS or even hantavirus infection in the early stage of the infection or disease mainly because the early symptoms are so nonspecific and the disease of HPS so infrequent. There has been no pressing need or use for a test. However, if the more severe HPS disease develops, the disease is presumptively diagnosed by the patient's association with an area where rodents proliferate or areas where HPS is known to occur (for example, the Four Corners area and more recently the Yosemite National Park recreational area, especially certain tent-cabins rented to the public). Sequential chest X-rays may show worsening changes and fluid buildup. Definitive diagnosis is usually done by the CDC labs using special immunological tests that can distinguish hantavirus from Ebola, Marburg, and other viruses.

What is the treatment for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome?

At this time, there is no definitive treatment for HPS other than early recognition of HPS and subsequent medical support (usually consisting of symptomatic medical treatment and respiratory support or mechanical ventilation). The CDC suggests that early treatment in an intensive-care unit may allow the patient to survive severe HPS. Experimentally, physicians have administered the antiviral medication ribavirin (Rebetol, Copegus), but there are no clear data currently that establish that the drug is effective against HPS; however, its use against HFRS early in the disease suggests ribavirin can decrease illness and deaths. There is no vaccine available to protect against any hantaviruses to date.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/22/2015

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