Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)
2001 Vol.17 NO.2
An outbreak of an unexplained illness occurred in May 1993 in “Four Corners”, an area of the Southwest shared by New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. A number of previously healthy young adults developed acute respiratory symptoms; about half died soon thereafter. The New Mexico Department of Health, the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Colorado Department of Health, the Utah Department of Health, the Indian Health Service, and the US CDC, with the assistance of the Navajo Nation Division of Health, rapidly mounted an intensive investigation.(1,2) Researchers soon found that this unexplained illness was caused by a newly identified Sin Nombre virus (SNV)(3-5) As the lungs were the primary site of infection, the illness was different from the hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) which affects primarily the kidneys (Table 1)(6); the disease was named hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). The principal carrier of the virus was deer mouse.(7) Chances of man being infected are rare, however once infected, the illness can be very serious. In the past about 50% of those infected died. Dr CJ Peter of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Special Pathogens Research Unit pointed out that HPS first appeared in the Southwest, but now it can be found all over the US.(8) The virus is not new, and in the late 1970’s, some Americans died of this then unrecognized pulmonary disease. HPS therefore is a re-emerging disease.