Southern Taiwan woman contracts hantavirus hemorrhagic fever

Taiwanese woman bitten by rat becomes 8th case of hantavirus this year

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(Flickr, Sonja Pauen photo)

(Flickr, Sonja Pauen photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A woman bitten by a rat in Pingtung County last month has become the eighth hantavirus hemorrhagic fever case in Taiwan this year, setting a new high number of cases in a single year since records began in 2001.

According to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), this year's eighth case of hantavirus is a woman in her 50s who had no recent history of travel abroad and had been mainly staying in her home, where she had seen evidence of a rat infestation. In August, she was bitten by a rat and on Aug. 17 she began to experience a fever, headache, pain in the posterior eye socket, muscle ache, and other symptoms and sought medical treatment that day.

As her condition worsened, she again sought medical treatment on Aug. 19. The hospital then ran a battery of tests for her for diseases, such as dengue fever, Zika, chikungunya, leptospirosis, hantavirus hemorrhagic fever, and scrub typhus.

The tests later revealed that the woman had contracted hantavirus hemorrhagic fever. Presently, she has been discharged from the hospital and her family members have not presented any suspected symptoms of the disease.

According to Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data, as of Sept. 7, there are now eight confirmed cases of hantavirus this year, far exceeding the amount reported from 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 (3, 0, 1, and 1, respectively). Thus far this year, four cases have been reported in Kaohsiung, two in Pingtung County, one in New Taipei City, and one in Keelung City.

Since 2010, there have been a total of 22 cases, the majority of them male (13 people, 59.1 percent) and over the age of 40 (18 people, 81.1 percent).

According to the CDC, hantavirus is commonly transmitted from animals to humans. Humans are at greater risk of infection if they inhale or come into contact with dust and objects carrying hantavirus or are bitten by rodents carrying the virus.

The incubation period after infection is several days to two months. The main symptoms are sudden and persistent fever, conjunctival hyperemia, weakness, back pain, headache, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting.

After three to six days, these symptoms may be followed by bleeding, followed by proteinuria, hypotension, or oliguria. Some patients may go into shock or experience mild renal disease, and the condition may progress to acute renal failure.

However, the patient's condition can be improved with medical treatment. The CDC advises the public that the best way to prevent being infected with the disease is to keep rodents out of one's home and eliminate any sources of food or shelter.

Homeowners are advised to pay attention to possible entryways for rodents into the home. Kitchen waste or pet food should be properly disposed of, and any spaces where rodents could dwell should be sealed off.

Food and beverage businesses, market vendors, and food processing plants should implement environmental hygiene measures. If rodent excrement is found, wear a mask, disposable rubber gloves, and open nearby doors and windows.

Next, sprinkle diluted bleach (100 cc of commercial bleach plus 1 liter of water) on the affected area. Then clean up the spot after 30 minutes of disinfection.

For more information, please visit the CDC website or call the toll free epidemic prevention hotline at 1922 (or 0800-001922).