According to Google Trends, the main topic this week is the Orthohanta virus, because fake sites claim that the next pandemic is imminent.
Trust me on this: It’s not that.
This unsubstantiated statement, circulating on the Internet, emphasizes the need to obtain health information from authoritative sources – and that one should not believe everything one reads on social networks. What is orthohantavirus?
Orthohantavirus, commonly known as Hantavirus, is a very, very rare virus. There’s never been a confirmed case of anyone in Australia. The last two cases confirmed worldwide were reported in Bolivia and Argentina in January.
It belongs to a class of diseases called zoonoses, which is a virus transmitted from animals to humans. In this case, the animal in question is a rodent (usually a rat). Hantaviruses can cause serious diseases, including bleeding and kidney failure. How does the hantavirus spread?
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the hantavirus is spread in various rodent species in urine, faeces and saliva. Transmission is suspected when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus.
The CDC also reports
- If a rodent carrying a virus bites someone, the virus can be transmitted to that person, but this type of transmission is rare;
- Scientists believe that people can contract the virus by touching an object infected with rodent urine, stool or saliva and then touching their nose or mouth;
- Scientists also suspect that people can get sick if they eat food that is contaminated with the urine, faeces or saliva of an infected rodent.
How am I supposed to worry about the Hantavirus? Not so much.
In general, infectious disease experts are genuinely concerned about zoonoses – the coronavirus causing CovID-19 and the Ebola virus are important current examples of animal diseases that have crossed species boundaries.
However, the hantavirus is not currently considered a major threat.
There is certainly no discussion about hantaviruses among doctors for infectious diseases at the moment. I don’t see anything in my research networks or virus outbreak warnings.
Only one case has been reported recently in China, but there are no signs of spread.
For the time being, we need to focus on the pandemic we have – namely the coronavirus and the annual flu season – and not worry about unusual viruses.
However, this coronavirus outbreak and everything that has happened before confirms once again that we need early warning systems to understand what is threatening there.
Yes, it is true that animals carry a lot of viruses, but very few of them are captured by humans.
The Hantavirus is certainly not the one we’re most worried about right now.
Details : How does a coronavirus kill?
Allen Chang, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Monash University
This article has been republished by Conversation under the Creative Commons license. Read the original article.