What can we learn about hantavirus?
Long before I came to live in the USA I read about a virus condition spread by rodents and transmitted to humans by contact. Called the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, this disease has been reported in 30 states, including most of the western half of the United States. It carries about 35% mortality, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That takes it up towards the Marburg and Ebola league. Pretty deadly.
This condition was surely the origin of a Native Indian legend that it was unlucky to wear a robe or blanket that had touched by mice. Without knowing anything about virology, observant ancestors had noticed something horrible could be transferred from rodents to humans by contact.
Now an interesting new study has shown that fat blobby old mice are the trouble! 200 lbs plus in human terms.
Knowing where deer mouse populations thrive — where mice grow older and bigger thanks to ample food, protection and nesting sites — should help people avoid contact with the creatures or their droppings, the researchers suggested.
But what does all this teach us?
That if we let ourselves go and gain weight, we are potential meat for any virus that causes inflammation and degenerative decay in our bodies. These are sometimes called “stealth viruses” or “smouldering viruses” to be more colorful.
Stealth viruses are thought to be behind degenerative heart disease (notably the Chlamydia virus) and several other possible conditions.
The findings were published online Jan. 7 2008 in the British biological research journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.