What is Hantaviruses?

When a new virus appeared in the Four Corners region, American scientists were stumped. What was causing such a quick death to such healthy people? Was there a potential epidemic on their hands? No one knew, and when they finally determined that a strain hantavirus was involved, many were shocked. This had to be something completely new to the hantavirus family and that was somewhat overwhelming. Normally, the hantavirus only affects the kidneys, but this new virus dealt with the upper respiratory area. This paper takes an in-depth look at the history of the hantavirus as well as its infectious nature and replication process.

Hantaviruses first came into existence through human eyes during the Korean War. Over 2000 U.S. soldiers were affected by this unknown virus that was quickly found to be carried through field mice. The natural territory of this virus included parts of Japan, Korea, northeastern China, and southeastern and central Russia. Between 1955 and 1977, this virus caused many more infections along with fatalities. Throughout the 1970s, eleven other strains of hantaviruses were found in Korea and Eurasia. In 1976, Hantaan virus was isolated from the Apodemus agreavius coreae mouse. Using the microscope, one could see the round microbes that were stacked in rows along the epithelial lining of the lungs (CDC website 6). Each infection still involved mild kidney infections. The same type of rodent always carried the virus, and people came in contact with the microbes through skin exposure or inhalation of infected animal feces or urine. Research continued on this virus and in 1981, it was first cultured in human cells.

Many people were worried that since the virus was so prevalent in Korea that it possibly could be spread easily from boat to new land through trade. When rats were tested in various harbors throughout the United States, the Seoul virus, a form of hantavirus, was found.

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