Hantaviruses comprise a genus of enveloped viruses within the family Bunyaviridae. All medically important hantaviruses are carried by rodents of the families Muridae and Cricetidae. These pathogens are associated with two severe, acute febrile illnesses:
- Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS, caused by viruses of the Old World)
- Hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS, caused by viruses of the New World), also known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)
The epidemiology and diagnosis of hantavirus infections, with a special emphasis on HCPS, will be reviewed here. The clinical manifestations, pathogenesis, and prevention of hantavirus infection are discussed separately. (See "Hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome" and "Renal involvement with hantavirus infection (hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome)" and "Pathogenesis of hantavirus infections".)
The precise number of identified hantavirus species is a matter of debate, but at least 20 distinct viral species exist in nature; at least 11 are associated with human disease (table 1).
Hantaviruses have single-stranded, negative-sense RNA genomes that are divided into three segments. The L, or large segment, encodes a replicative enzyme, RNA-dependent RNA polymerase; the M (middle) segment encodes the envelope glycoproteins G1 and G2, and the S segment encodes the nucleocapsid protein N.