DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
ATLANTA-In the Four Corners area of Arizona, Utah,
Colorado, and New Mexico in the summer of 1993, there were reported
a cluster of patients that were afflicted by a deadly virus infection
involving the lungs which later was identified as a hantavirus.
The disease that affected these individuals has come to be known
as the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS).
Hantaviruses are a family of viruses that can lead
to bleeding in the lungs (hemorrhagic fever) and kidney damage.
Prior to the outbreak in the southwestern United States, they
were best known to cause disease from western Europe to eastern
A recent update of hantavirus infection by authors
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was
published in the medical journal HOSPITAL PRACTICE
Anne K. Pflieger, former coordinator of HPS U.S.
national surveillance, and Dr. Ali S. Khan, an epidemiologist
with the CDC, authored the article which outlined new features
of hantavirus disease as well as current thoughts on both treatment
The virus originally responsible for the outbreak
in the U.S. has now been named the Sin Nombre (SNV) virus. ("Sin
Nombre" means "without name" in Spanish!) This
virus is transmitted by deer mice which are most common in the
HPS cases totaled 160 as of May, 1997.
Symptoms of HPS include an early phase of fever for
3 to 5 days, with muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, rapid heart
rate, chills, nausea and vomiting. Patients can develop abdominal
pain. Next, shortness of breath rapidly becomes severe as the
lungs fill up with bloody fluid. Blood pressure drops and soon
patients require mechanical (artificial) breathing machines. Some
patients develop serious kidney disease. Death occurs by an average
of 5 days as a result of heart and lung failure.