Infection with the hantavirus is caused by rodents

Infection with the hantavirus is very dangerous. This virus is transmitted by rodents such as mice. The danger is great with this infection because it can take a long time before the virus is recognized and diagnosed. People quickly think of the flu or a cold, but in the meantime the disease is spreading. Admission to hospital is often necessary and there is a risk of damage to the kidneys. How do you prevent contamination?

  • Hantavirus is caused by rodents
  • Variant
  • Cause
  • Symptoms
  • The disease is dangerous

Hantavirus is caused by rodents

The name hantavirus comes from the Korean War. Soldiers stationed on the Hantan River were infected. In the early 1950s, more than 3,000 soldiers were infected here with an unknown virus. The men became seriously ill and developed a high fever. Bleeding occurred suddenly and ten percent of soldiers died from this virus in a two-year period. However, it was not until 1977 that the virus was officially named. The virus is transmitted from rodents to humans via saliva, (bite wounds), urine or feces. Generally speaking, we know two types of this virus that have the following characteristics:

  • Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome occurs in Europe and Asia.
  • Cardiopulmonary syndrome in America which is characterized by high heart rate and rapid breathing


There are a total of 20 types of hantavirus, eleven of which can transmit disease to humans. One variant of the Hantavirus is more common in the Netherlands. This concerns the Puumala virus, which is transmitted by the vole. This virus occurs in Twente, the Achterhoek, South Limburg and Brabant. The Sin Nombre virus caused an outbreak in America in 2012.


Various rodents cause the disease. Shrews in particular, but also rats and voles, can spread the virus through their urine, feces and saliva. To become infected, it is not necessary that one comes into direct contact with the animals or their feces, but it is sufficient if one inhales the released substances. An example can be a stable where mice have been staying and which needs to be swept clean. One can very easily contract the virus there. But a field mouse that nests in the meadow can also spread the virus, so it cannot always be prevented. The risk of contamination exists throughout the year, but the risk is slightly greater during the summer months from May to September. The disease can be contracted at any age. In general, more men than women are infected.


Sometimes people are infected but have no complaints. Common complaints are:

  • Fever
  • Vomit
  • Stomach ache
  • Bleeding
  • Shock condition
  • Low bloodpressure
  • Renal dysfunction

The disease is dangerous

The first thought is often the flu. If the illness lasts a few days longer, the patient can no longer keep fluids down. The disease then takes a rapid and dangerous course. People become dehydrated very quickly and the result may be kidney damage. Admission to hospital is necessary. There are no medications for this disease and the treatment mainly consists of administering fluids through an IV. The patient is seriously ill. It will take some time before the virus is identified and during this time the functioning of the kidneys will be closely monitored. If one has survived the infection well, one is immune for the rest of life.

Infection is generally more common in Germany than in the Netherlands. It varies from year to year and depends on the rodent population which varies by area and year. The areas that are more often affected by this virus are:

  • Osnabrück region
  • Odenwald
  • Swabian Alb
  • Frankish Alb
  • Bavarian Forest

Increased risk

People who spend a lot of time outdoors on meadows, or have large stables or barns in which rodents can nest. But rodents can also be found at campsites. Sometimes a tent is pitched on top of rodent droppings. The virus can then spread in the air in the tent. One can become infected by breathing in the air. This also applies to holiday homes that have not been used for a long time and where rodents may have previously been observed. People who have wood storage or old tires and material that mice live among. but working in the garden or walking in the woods can also occasionally cause infection.

Prevent contamination

The most important thing is that we are aware of the existence of the hantavirus. In case of the above complaints and if you think you have come into contact with rodent droppings, you can request to have the blood tested for this virus. It is also important

  • Always keep food closed
  • Do not leave pet food and water open overnight
  • Place waste in well-sealable bags in the container
  • Ensure that animals cannot enter the house through insulation, such as gaps in windows and doors
  • Use pesticides if there are rodents in the house
  • Clean the area where rodents have been spotted with bleach.


This prevents rodents from entering your home. In addition, if you have to clean sheds or garages or terraces where there may be mouse droppings, it is important to wear a face mask and at least plastic work gloves. Gloves are also an absolute necessity when working in the garden.