Presence of hantavirus in small mammals of the Ouachita Mountains
In 1993, an outbreak of human hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) occurred in the southwestern United States causing severe pulmonary dysfunction and death among most of those infected. Shortly after the outbreak, the causative agent was identified as the Sin Nombre virus (SNV), a virus of the genus Hantavirus. Several hantaviruses have since been identified in North America, and rodents have been identified as the hosts of these hantaviruses. Each hantavirus has been associated with a single primary host species in which it causes a chronic, persistent infection involving the shedding of virus in saliva, feces, and urine. Infection to humans is thought to be from inhalation of aerosolized virus (breathing of small particles such as dust from feces, blood, or urine). However, rodent bites or direct contact with broken skin or mucus membranes also are potential sources of infection. The authors discuss the findings of their research to determine the incidence of hantavirus antibodies in Arkansas small mammals to ascertain potential risks for human hantavirus infection.