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Symptoms and Signs of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) Early Symptoms

Doctor's Notes on Hantavirus

Hantaviruses are viruses passed to humans from the urine and droppings of rodents. Hantaviruses can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) that can be severe and/or fatal. Early signs and symptoms of Hantavirus infections resemble the flu; fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches and dizziness. Late stages of the disease (HPS) may include cough, shortness of breath and possibly heart and lung failure that can lead to death. About 38% of individuals that get HPS die. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for Hantavirus.

The cause of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is inhaling airborne particles of infected rodent urine, droppings and/or nesting materials that contain the virus. The form of hantavirus in the U.S. is not transmitted from person to person; the incubation period is about 2-3 weeks.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/21/2019

Hantavirus Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of hantavirus can easily be mistaken for the flu, so it is important to tell your doctor if you live, work, or have recently traveled to places where there are large rodent populations.

The early stage of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome lasts two to eight days, and signs and symptoms may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches (especially in large muscle groups: thighs, hips, back, and shoulders)
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Chills
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain)

After the early stage, the late symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome are due to fluid in the lungs and include

  • cough,
  • shortness of breath, and
  • heart and lung failure may occur.

These symptoms can lead to organ failure and death in some patients.

Hantavirus Causes

The cause of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is inhaling airborne particles of infected rodent urine, droppings, and nesting materials that contain the virus.

The Sin Nombre virus (SNV) and the southern (prototypical) form of the Andes virus cause the most severe forms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The northern form of the Andes virus (Andes-Nort), Laguna Negra virus (LNV), and the Choclo virus cause milder forms of HPS.

Viral Infection Types, Treatment, and Prevention Slideshow

Viral Infection Types, Treatment, and Prevention Slideshow

Viruses are small particles of genetic material (either DNA or RNA) that are surrounded by a protein coat. Some viruses also have a fatty "envelope" covering. They are incapable of reproducing on their own. Viruses depend on the organisms they infect (hosts) for their very survival. Viruses get a bad rap, but they also perform many important functions for humans, plants, animals, and the environment. For example, some viruses protect the host against other infections. Viruses also participate in the process of evolution by transferring genes among different species. In biomedical research, scientists use viruses to insert new genes into cells.

When most people hear the word "virus," they think of disease-causing (pathogenic) viruses such as the common cold, influenza, chickenpox, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and others. Viruses can affect many areas in the body, including the reproductive, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. They can also affect the liver, brain, and skin. Research reveals that that viruses are implicated in many cancers as well.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.