Worker in China dies of hantavirus spread by rats but it won't become a Covid-19

The virus usually spreads through consumption of rats' bodily fluids.

Sumita Thiagarajan| March 26, 01:56 PM

Virologists have asked people not to worry after the death of a Chinese worker from hantavirus sparked concerns of another outbreak amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Chinese media agency, Global Times.

On Mar. 24, Global Times reported that a male passenger from Yunnan Province died while on his way back to Shandong Province for work on a chartered bus on Mar. 23.

Late bus passenger from Yunnan tested positive for hantavirus

The migrant worker from Lincang, a city in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, died suddenly while traveling through Ningshan, a city in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

It was reported by Ningshan county that the migrant worker whose surname was identified as Tian, felt unwell when passing through the city of Ningshan on a chartered bus back to work.

He had worked at an aquatic food company in East China's Shandong Province.

Tian died at 7am after all efforts to save him failed.

He subsequently tested positive for the hantavirus, a virus found in rodents, that is usually reported in rural areas where there are forests, fields, and farms.

He also tested negative for Covid-19.

Fear of another outbreak

The death of the Chinese worker sparked fears amongst online commenters, with many expressing concerns over human transmission of the hantavirus and the fear of another major outbreak amidst the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Passengers on the same chartered bus as Tian tested negative for Covid-19 and test results for hantavirus are pending, reported Global Times.

Virologists assure that hantavirus is mainly transmitted through bodily fluids, like blood and excreta

Yang Zhanqiu, a virologist at Wuhan University said that infection of the hantavirus is rarely transmitted from one human to another.

The virologists added that it is unusual for people to be infected with both hantavirus and Covid-19 at the same time.

He assured that the hantavirus is rarely transmitted through the respiratory system:

"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."

Hantavirus is mainly contracted when a person comes into contact with rats, eats food that came into contact with rats, or by breathing air contaminated by mouse faeces.

Another scientist, Sumaiya Shaikh, assured others in her tweets that human-to-human transmission is rare and that it spreads from rats to humans when rats' bodily fluids are eaten by humans.

According to her tweet and a study, the hantavirus fever was observed in the 1950s during the Korean conflict, between United States and Korea.

In her tweet, she added "please do not panic, unless you plan to eat rats".

Not common in urban areas: Yang

According to Yang, the hantavirus can severely damage patients' liver, kidney and other organ functions and produce symptoms of fever and massive bleeding, reported Global Times.

Hantavirus can be fatal and has a death rate of between 1 and 10 percent in China.

According to Yang, the disease is reported in villages from May to June and October to December.

He assured that "there is no need to worry about the hantavirus".

He added that hantavirus infection is "preventable and controllable" and that vaccines are available to prevent the disease.

Hantavirus has been reported in countries, such as Russia, Finland, Sweden, United States and China.

Top photo by Cynthia Goldsmith, Sherif Zaki, Luanne Elliot/CDC and Tom Swinnen/Unsplash