WHO warns of a deadly outbreak of hantavirus transmitted by rats in Argentina

(Reuters) – At least 11 people died in Argentina after being infected with hantavirus, a disease transmitted by rats and other rodents, according to a news alert from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Among the 29 cases of the disease confirmed with laboratory tests between the end of October 2018 and January 20, 2019, almost 60 percent were women or girls, the WHO said.

About 50 percent of these confirmed cases, all in Epuyén, in the province of Chubut, in southern Argentina, reported symptoms in the last three weeks.

"The potential transmission from person to person is currently under investigation," said WHO.

There is no treatment, cure or vaccine for Hantavirus infection, and the case-fatality rate can reach 35-50 percent.

WHO recommended that health authorities in the region be vigilant and intensify efforts to detect, investigate, manage and control cases of the disease. He said that special attention should be paid to travelers returning from the affected areas.

Hantavirus is a viral respiratory disease usually acquired through contact with excrement from infected rats or saliva from infected rodents. It is characterized by headaches, dizziness, fever, nausea, diarrhea and stomach pain, followed by the sudden onset of severe respiratory symptoms.

Report from Kate Kelland; Edited by Dale Hudson

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