As the world continues in it’s attempts to fight off the spread of COVID-10 coronavirus, news of the death of a worker in China, who tested positive for a hantavirus, (a genus of viruses spread by rodents) has generated a great deal of alarm across the internet,
But the reality is that there is no need to worry as experts confirm that the hantavirus is not going to be the cause of another global pandemic.
The original information comes from an article published in the Chinese English newspaper Global Times, which reports on the death of a Chinese worker from hantavirus raising concern about a new epidemic amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The piece explains that a Chinese employee was travelling to work on a bus when he felt unwell. Both he and the other passengers underwent a coronavirus test to which they all tested negative, but he did test positive for hantavirus, a virus that, according to the Global Times, caused his death earlier this week.
Texts, which are circulating on WhatsApp and elsewhere, make reference to the rise of hantavirus, warning that the world could be in danger of yet another disease as it grapples with Covid-19.
But the warnings are over exaggerated. While hantavirus does refer to a dangerous family of viruses, they are not comparable to the new coronavirus and are nowhere near as dangerous.
What is a hantavirus?
A hantavirus is a genus of viruses in the Bunyaviridae family, an order of negative-sense single-stranded RNA viruses that inhabit the bodies of some rodents without causing harm. The problems come when the virus jumps to humans, to whom it can cause significant damage.
There are dozens of different strains of this virus, and approximately 10,000 to 20,000 human infections are reported in China every year. The main vector of the virus in Europe is the red vole.
This type of virus can, in its most serious (and infrequent) form, produce two types of diseases: hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome. The former has a case fatality rate of 36% and the latter varies by strain, between less than 1% and a maximum of 15%.
Why is there nothing to fear
The first reason not to worry that an outbreak of this virus could trigger another global health crisis is that human-to-human transmission cases are extremely rare.
Both the Ministry of Health, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States maintain that the virus is not transmitted from person to person.
The most frequent form of contagion in humans is by air through remnants of urine or drops of sweat or saliva that rodents can leave in the environment, making it difficult to get infected in open environments since air or rain sweep away virus particles.
In Europe, ECDC produces an annual report on infections registered in the EU. Of Hantavirus they report that in 2017 there were 4,239 infections in 21 countries, representing a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Furthermore, 70.1% of registered cases in Europe are in Germany and Finland. In fact, in Spain only one case is known in the last seven years.