NewsDesk @bactiman63

The Argentina Ministry of Health of the Nation reports that a 8-year-old girl who lived with her family in the Futaleufú department, in the province of Chubut, died of hantavirus. The confirmation of this endemic event in the region was made from the Pediatric Service and the Laboratory of the Hospital Zonal de Esquel.

The Epidemiology Directorate of the province of Chubut notified the national Epidemiology Directorate of the case and reported that the girl had started with abdominal pain, fever and vomiting on July 8 and was taken to a consultation with a local effector.

Given the persistence of abdominal pain and fever, on July 12 a consultation was held at the Esquel hospital where she was admitted to the intensive care unit. There she had a first test with positive results for hantavirus and she was confirmed the next day by molecular tests in the Esquel hospital laboratory. The patient presented an unfavorable evolution and she died on July 13 in the morning.

The provincial epidemiology team is conducting epidemiological investigations to control the focus and identifying close contacts in order to implement control measures.

Since the beginning of 2022 and to date, 32 cases of hantavirus have been confirmed in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (case with a history of travel to Esquel, Chubut), Chubut, Entre Ríos, Jujuy, Salta and Tucumán , of which five of them were deceased.

Characteristics of the disease

Hantavirus disease is an emerging zoonosis caused by RNA viruses belonging to the Bunyaviridae family. It is transmitted to humans by wild rodents, natural reservoirs of the infection, which present a chronic asymptomatic infection with persistent viremia and eliminate the virus through urine, saliva and feces.

Image/Robert Herriman

Hantaviruses are transmitted primarily by inhalation of aerosols loaded with viral particles from the feces, urine, and saliva of infected rodents. Other possible routes of transmission are contact with the conjunctival, nasal, or oral mucosa of infected mice with excrements or secretions, or the bite of the infected rodent.

Transmission to humans generally occurs by entering the habitat of rodents in suburban areas and rural environments, mainly in peri-domiciles and during the development of work, recreational activities, or in closed places such as sheds or warehouses infested by rodents.

There is also evidence of person-to-person transmission, and therefore secretions and other human fluids should be considered potentially dangerous.

The first symptoms are similar to flu: fever 38°C, muscle aches, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea without upper airway involvement.

Prevention measures

• Avoid living with rodents and contact with their secretions.

• Prevent rodents from entering or nesting in homes.

• Cover holes in doors, walls and pipes.

• Clean floors, walls, doors, tables, drawers and cupboards with one part sodium hypochlorite and nine parts water (leave for 30 minutes and then rinse). Moisten the floor before sweeping to avoid raising dust.

• Locate orchards and firewood (30 cm high) more than 30 meters from the houses, cut grass and weeds up to a radius of 30 meters around the home.

• Ventilate for at least 30 minutes before entering places such as homes and sheds located in rural and/or wild environments in endemic areas that have been closed for long periods. Cover your mouth and nose with an N95 respirator or mask before entering.

• Take special care when starting up fans and air conditioners whose filters or ducts may have come into contact with contaminated dust, rodents or their droppings. If you have to do it, do the proper cleaning beforehand and cover yourself with a respirator or N95 mask.

• When camping, do it away from weeds and garbage dumps. Do not sleep directly on the ground; consume drinking water.

• If a live rodent is found: use traps to capture it (do not try to touch or hit it). Consult and get advice in the municipality with technicians in comprehensive pest control.

• If a dead rodent is found: spray it with sodium hypochlorite together with everything that may have come into contact with it and wait a minimum of 30 minutes. Then pick it up wearing gloves and bury it more than 30 cm deep or burn it.

• Rodent control is not feasible in the wild due to the ecological impact, however, it should be applied in urban areas. Consult the municipality for comprehensive pest control.

• Isolation of close contacts of confirmed cases of hantavirus due to Andes virus or those who have acquired the infection in the Surandean region is indicated.