Saturday, September 8, 2012


As if anyone needed another reason to dislike rats. One of this summer’s most alarming outbreaks is the Hantavirus, which plagued hikers and campers who stayed in a certain area of California’s Yosemite National Park. The rodent-borne disease is transmitted (disgustingly) through urine and droppings; carriers can become infected by merely sweeping or kicking up dust that contains virus-laden particles. The illness begins with flu-like symptoms, but after six weeks of incubation can cause rapid acute respiratory and organ failure. Not scary enough? There’s no specific treatment, vaccine, or effective antiviral drug, and more than 36 percent of those who contract the disease die. In the Yosemite outbreak, six people have contracted the disease, and two have died. 

About 10,000 people who stayed in the area may have been exposed to the virus, including people from 39 countries. The hypothesis was criticised because sweating sickness was recorded as being transmitted human-to-human whereas hantaviruses were not known to spread in this way. In late Medieval England a mysterious sweating sickness swept through the country in 1485 just before the Battle of Bosworth Field. Noting the similar symptoms which overlap with Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, several scientists have theorised that the virus may have been the cause of the disease., infection via human-to-human contact has since been proven in Hantavirus outbreaks in Argentina.

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