The early symptoms of a dangerous hantavirus infection, called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, include fever, fatigue and pain in hips, thighs, back and occasionally the shoulders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of all patients also experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and chills.
Additional symptoms show up about 10 days later, the CDC reports. They include coughing, shortness of breath and fluid filling the lungs. Thirty-eight percent of patients die from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
Infection with hantavirus is rare, the CDC states. Individuals contract the hantavirus from exposure to rodent droppings, urine or saliva. Most often patients are exposed by breathing in airborne particles from rodent urine, by touching infected rodents or their droppings, or receiving a rodent bite, according to WebMD. Hantavirus can also be transmitted from dust that contains the virus.
Because cases are so rare, physicians aren't sure precisely how long after exposure that symptoms occur, says the CDC. Currently doctors think it may take between one and five weeks before the patient notices any symptoms.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome requires immediate hospitalization, warns WebMD. Treatment consists of supporting the patient through the disease by giving intravenous fluids and medication. Some patients need a ventilator to breathe.