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Epidemic Control Toolkit
for community volunteers
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Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)

Last update: 2023-06-14

Key facts

Transmission: Airborne and, though less common, direct contact with rodent waste (the reservoirs of hantaviruses are rodents)

  • Breathing in airborne particles of rodent waste (urine and faeces)
  • Touching the eyes, nose or mouth after touching rodent droppings, urine or nests (suspected, not confirmed)
  • Rodent bite (suspected, not confirmed)
  • Close contact with people who have HPS (very rare)

Most vulnerable to contracting the disease

  • People who come in contact with rodents, their nests, droppings and urine


  • Tiredness
  • Fever, chills
  • Muscle aches, especially in large muscle groups (thighs, hips, back)
  • Headaches and dizziness (sometimes)
  • Nausea and vomiting (sometimes)
  • Abdominal pain (sometimes)
  • Diarrhoea (sometimes)
  • Coughing (usually occurs after other symptoms)
  • Shortness of breath (usually occurs after other symptoms)

What can you do to prevent and control an epidemic?

Reservoir control and prevention

  • Promote the use of rodent traps inside and outside homes
  • Promote the use of other rodent control measures such as keeping cats

Monitoring the community and identifying sick people

  • Identify people with suspected HPS quickly according to community case definition

Treatment and management

  • Refer sick people to health facilities
  • Provide psychosocial support to the sick person and their family members

Safe shelters and spaces

  • Promote secured spaces and prevent rodents from entering houses or accessing stored food and water (including pet or animal food) 
  • Follow recommended environmental hygiene practices 
    • Dispose of rubbish in rodent-proof containers to minimize possible nesting sites
    • Clean and disinfect areas where there is evidence of rodents

Sanitation and waste management

  • Encourage disinfection of homes and other spaces with evidence of rodents
  • Promote proper and safe disposal of dead rodents
  • Follow recommended kitchen hygiene practices (for example, clean floors and wash dishes and utensils immediately)

Personal protection and hygiene

  • Promote the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants when cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting materials
  • Promote handwashing with soap
    • BEFORE: preparing food; eating; feeding a child; treating wounds; or caring for sick people
    • AFTER: using the toilet or cleaning a baby; touching garbage or waste, especially rodent waste; touching or feeding animals; blowing nose, coughing or sneezing; treating wounds; or caring for sick people

Social mobilization and health promotion

  • Find out the specific advice being given by health and other relevant authorities 
  • Model following this advice and inform community members of current health practice advice 
  • Offer support and encouragement to follow the advice  
    • Try to gain understanding about if and why health practice advice is not being followed  
    • With the guidance of your supervisor and health authorities, work with communities to overcome barriers to following health advice and recommended practices

Mapping and community assessment

  • Make a map of the community.
  • Mark the following information on the map:
    • How many people have fallen sick with hantavirus? Where?
    • How many people have died? Where? When?
    • Who and where are the vulnerable people?
    • Where are the local health facilities and services? (include traditional healers)
  • Record the following information on the back of the map:
    • When did people start to fall sick with hantavirus? 
    • How many people live in the affected community? How many are children under five years?
    • How do people in the community store their food?
      • Are rats or other rodents able to eat it or contaminate it?
    • How do people in the community dispose of rubbish and solid waste? (put communal rubbish disposal sites on the map)
      • Have the authorities established a reservoir control programme?
      • Do community members have any risky habits or practices when they come into contact with live or dead rodents?
    • How do people dispose of dead rodents? (For example, are they buried, thrown in the river, burned?)
    • What handwashing facilities are available? (put communal handwashing stations on map) 
      • Do they have soap?
    • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about caring for and feeding sick people? Consider any differences in roles and responsibilities between women and men.
      • When babies and infants are sick, do women continue to breastfeed them?
    • Is a social mobilization or health promotion programme in place?
    • What are the barriers people face in accessing water points and sanitation and hygiene facilities, of all gender identities, ages, disabilities and backgrounds? 
    • Which sources do people use/trust the most for information?
      • Are there rumours or misinformation about hantavirus? What are the rumours?