Arenavirus Disease: Infection, Symptom & Prevention


What? I haven’t heard of such disease. What exactly is Arenavirus disease? What kind of infection?  

Well, arenavirus infections are usually attributed to the “flu-like” illness, which is also characterized by the neurologic diseases and haemorrhagic fevers of varying severity. They are caused by the various forms of Arenavirus which consist of single-stranded RNA. Arenaviruses have been divided into 2 groups based on whether the virus is found to infect Old World (ie, Eastern Hemisphere) rodents or New World (ie, Western Hemisphere) rodents. They are maintained in one or a few animal reservoir hosts and is limited by the distribution of that host. They are zoonotically acquired disease in humans transmitted through rodent excreta, especially urine.


How do they get into our body?

Human gets infected with an Arenavirus is incidental to the natural cycle of the viruses. It occurs when a person comes into contact with the excretions or materials contaminated with the excretions of an infected rodent or by direct contact of broken skin with rodent excrement. A human can also get infected by the inhalation of tiny particles soiled with rodent urine or saliva (aerosol transmission). The types of incidental contact depend on the habits of both humans and rodents. For example, where the infected rodent species prefers a field habitat, human infection is associated with agricultural work. In areas where the rodent species’ habitat includes human homes or other buildings, infection occurs in domestic settings.


Some Arenaviruses are also associated with secondary person-to-person and transmitted through hospital settings. In 2008, a nurse who cared for the infected paramedic is receiving anti-viral treatment for arenavirus infection. Person-to-person transmission is also possible when the person comes in direct contact with the blood or other body fluids, containing virus particles, of infected individuals. It was also found that air-borne transmission was also found. Contact with objects contaminated with these materials, such as medical equipment, is also associated with transmission.


Symptoms of ArenaVirus

Suffering from high fever with haemorrhage, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss or among females, do you have decreased reproductive capacity or even abort during pregnancy? These may be the symptoms of arenavirus infection.These are some of the symptoms that helps us to know we have arenavirus infection:

  1. If you have Influenza-like febrile illness followed by meningitis, characteristically accompanied by large numbers of lymphocytes in the CSF, this may be a type of arenavirus infection.
  2. It may also be characterised by high fever, severe myalgia, coagulopathy, haemorrhagic skin rash, and occasional visceral haemorrhage, as well as necrosis of liver and spleen.

The infections are often diagnosed by a serological test. The virus can be detected in blood and urine by electron microscopy. The antiviral drug ribavirin has been used and the treatment is most effective when it is started early in the course of the disease.


Is there any way out to prevent the infection?

The infection can surely be prevented if we take some measures like if we avoid contact with the reservoir host and its excretions, the risk of arenavirus infections can be decreased. In endemic areas, we should place our food in rodent-proof containers to prevent contamination, and rodents should be discouraged from entering homes. Preventative measures may also include replacing crops and burning areas that contain tall grasses. Good hygiene and appropriate sterilization of equipment should be practised. The highest risk of transmission occurs during unprotected contact with body fluids or excreta from an infected person.

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