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Hantavirus outbreaks, like the deadly outbreaks common in South America, could be forecast months in advance by using satellite pictures to observe sharp increases in plant-life growth that allow mouse populations to grow unchecked. Researchers are considering this information critical to their monitoring and forecasting of hantavirus and other rodent-borne illnesses globally.

The strategy is to remotely monitor the outbreak without having to go out and capture animals for testing, as the satellite results demonstrate growth in the greenness of the overall planet, and it’s been determined that greenness forecasts deer mouse populations very accurately.

The Sin Nombre virus is delivered by rats and mice, mainly deer mice, in western USA. In people, it leads to an illness called “hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.” It was originally found in 1993 when younger, healthy individuals in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona were found dead of the mysterious respiratory disease. Hantavirus will kill 42% of patients who contract the disease after inhaling dirt that contains mouse urine or feces.

Generally, periodic rains during spring in the U.S. Southwest spur the development of vegetation like juniper, sagebrush, and spring-blooming annuals. Although deer mice don’t feed on this kind of vegetation, they do rely on it since they consume the seeds and plant-eating bugs that fourish during the season.

In early 2012, the satellite images would not have predicted the outbreak now occuring in the Chilean desert region known as Bío Bío and Auracanía. Fires in the region have forced several hundreds of people from their houses, but rodents, including mice and rats are also scurrying from their habitats, and with them the threat of death from hantavirus.

The hantavirus has killed a small number of people but more are contaminated with the disease. Chilean officials believe the fires forced rats into contact with the individuals who are now sick and dying.

how hantavirus is contracted by humansHantavirus is a disease that’s contracted in humans through contact with the urine, feces and saliva of rats, particularly deer mice. People can get the disease by touching or inhaling airborne debris contaminated with the droppings of infected animals.

Symptoms from the contagion start with hemorrhagic fever, which includes chills and muscle aches. Symptoms usually recede following a couple of days, but can return with a vengeance. Eventually symptoms consist of kidney failure and also lung infection, before the patient dies.

Treatment must happen immediately after the onset of symptoms and is morbidly ineffective at this stage in the illness. Health authorities are usually quick to administer chlorine tablets, breathing filters and masks, and informative literature hoping to limit the outbreak.

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