Hantavirus death in China does not mean the start of another coronavirus-like outbreak
Almaty. March 26. KazTAG - The death of a man in China who had a hantavirus spread by rodents has prompted fears of a new outbreak similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. But experts have stressed the case is no cause for concern.
The man, identified by his surname Tian, was traveling on Monday to Shandong, eastern China, for work, when he started to feel unwell, China's state-run Global Times newspaper reported. The man was taken to a hospital in Ningshan county, in northwestern Shannxi Province, and died. It was not clear when he was tested for hantavirus.
His 29 fellow passengers were screened for hantavirus, with their results pending, Ningshan county government said according to the Global Times. Tests for COVID-19, meanwhile, came back negative.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which is thought to have started from a germ jumping from an animal to a human before spreading across the world, the report prompted panic online.
However, hantaviruses are not new and, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of person-to-person transmission are very rare. Such instances have mostly been reported in people with close contact with those sick with a type of hantavirus called Andes virus in Chile and Argentina.
Alan Radford, professor in veterinary health informatics at the University of Liverpool, U.K., told Newsweek hantavirus "already occurs rarely in most countries. People get it from rodents, not other people.
"Whilst it can be a severe infection in individuals, the pattern is not changing and health authorities know how to respond to it."
Yang Zhanqiu, virologist at Wuhan University, told the Global Times: "There is no need to worry about the hantavirus."
Part of the difficulty with stopping the spread of COVID-19 is that as it is new there is no vaccine for it yet. However, Zhanqiu explained: "Hantavirus disease is preventable and controllable and there are vaccines to prevent it. Its incidence in urban cities is very low as the disease is mainly found in rural villages where rats tend to appear when people are working in the field."
Yang said: "Unlike the COVID-19, the hantavirus in most cases does not transmit through the respiratory system. But the human excreta and blood of an infected patient can transmit the virus to humans."
Photo source: picture from an open source