January 24, 2019 / 4:11 PM / 7 months ago

WHO warns of deadly outbreak of rat-borne hantavirus in Argentina

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

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

Around 50 percent of these confirmed cases - all of which were in Epuyén, in southern Argentina’s Chubut province - reported symptoms within the past three weeks.

“Potential human-to-human transmission is currently under investigation,” the WHO said.

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

The WHO advised health authorities in the region to be vigilant and to step up efforts to detect, investigate, manage and control cases of the disease. It said particular attention should be given to travelers returning from affected areas.

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

Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Dale Hudson

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