Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) - Topic Overview

What is hantavirus pulmonary syndrome?

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a lung infection caused by viruses found in the saliva, urine, and droppings of some rodents. The illness is rare but can be deadly.

The first known outbreak of HPS in the United States occurred in 1993. Most of the U.S. cases have happened during the spring and summer in the Southwest.

Recommended Related to Lung Disease/Respiratory Problems

COPD Stages and Treatments

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease mainly caused by smoking. You can also get it from long-term exposure to air pollution, dust, and chemical fumes. It causes the airways in your lungs to inflame and thicken. You’ll have trouble breathing and you’ll cough often, or cough up mucus. You’ll probably wheeze a lot, and you could feel tired all the time. Your lips or fingernails might turn blue because of a lack of oxygen. But your doctor has ways to manage your disease and...

Read the COPD Stages and Treatments article > >

What causes HPS?

Most cases of HPS in the U.S. are caused by one type of hantavirus found in the deer mouse. People can become infected by:

  • Breathing in tiny airborne particles that come from rodent urine.
  • Touching rodent urine, saliva, or droppings.
  • Coming in contact with dust contaminated with the virus.
  • Being bitten by an infected mouse.

North America has never had a known case of one person spreading the illness to another. And people do not get HPS from farm animals, pets, or insects. But your pet may bring home an infected rodent.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms usually start 2 to 3 weeks after a person has been exposed to the virus. Early symptoms may include:

You quickly will become very sick. Within a few days, you'll start to have more serious symptoms, such as:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing.
  • A fast heartbeat and fast breathing. These are signs of fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema).

After a person with HPS starts having trouble breathing, he or she may die within hours. Most deaths occur within 1 to 2 days after severe breathing problems begin. About 4 out of 10 people who get HPS do not survive.1

How is HPS diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms, past health, and exposure to rodents. You may have other tests, such as chest X-rays, a complete blood count, and an oxygen saturation test.

Your doctor will know for sure that you have HPS only if you have the signs of HPS and if tests show that the virus is or has been in your blood or tissues.

1 | 2
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

man coughing
You may not even know you have it.
blood clot
Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
 
man coughing
When a cold becomes bronchitis.
human lungs
Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.
 

chest x-ray
Slideshow
Bronchitis Overview
SLIDESHOW
 
Copd Myth Fact Quiz
QUIZ
Energy Boosting Foods
SLIDESHOW
 

lungs
Article
smokestacks
Article
 
woman coughing
Article
Lung xray and caduceus
Article