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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Old World Hantavirus Infection in Rattus Species and Risk Management in Urban Neighborhoods of New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Author(s): Freeman, Ashley;
  • Cross, Robert;
  • Riegel, Claudia;
  • Waffa, Bradley;
  • Brown, Joyce;
  • Moses, Lina;
  • Bennett, Andrew;
  • Bond, Nell;
  • Greene, Mary;
  • Voss, Tom;
  • Bausch, Daniel
  • et al.

Hantaviruses are lipid-enveloped, tri-segmented RNA viruses belonging to the family Bunyaviridae. Hantaviruses are divided taxonomically into Old World and New World groups that typically cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, respectively. Each hantavirus is specific to a rodent reservoir host. In 1983, isolation of an Old World hantavirus similar to Seoul virus (Tchoupitoulas virus) occurred from rats caught in New Orleans, Louisiana, but to date, this virus has not been associated with human disease. Since that time, no hantavirus surveillance has been conducted in this geographic area. We sought to determine if Old World hantaviruses still circulate in rodents in New Orleans and, if so, to decrease rat populations to reduce the risk of human-rodent interaction and the potential for disease transmission. Over a 3-year period, rodents were live-trapped using Sherman and Tomahawk traps. Blood and other tissues were collected and samples tested for the presence of Old World hantaviruses via Reverse transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction. Trap sites were identified through selected citizen service requests and routine municipal rodent management activities. Of the 172 roof rats and Norway rats collected, 3.6% tested positive, indicating continued presence of Old World hantaviruses in New Orleans. This study raised awareness of the continued risk of rodent-borne disease in the greater New Orleans area and spawned proactive management strategies on a city-wide basis, including neighborhood surveys, public education and awareness campaigns, and an aggressive rodenticide baiting program in areas with large rodent populations. Continued surveillance and detection of hantaviruses and other rodent-borne pathogens will help preserve the safety and health of New Orleans residents.

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