Saigon Is Flooded With Hanta Virus Carrying Rats, Causing Kidney Failures

Three of the samples taken from 25 sewer rats and house mice in Saigon were found carrying the Hanta virus that can cause kidney failure, the Saigon Pasteur Institute has reported.


Many rats are found in the U Cay Canal area in District 8, HCMC

The tests were conducted following the case in which N.V.T., a 55-year-old man from District 3, was tested positive for the virus, said the Tropical Diseases Hospital.

  • T was hospitalized on October 17 with a high fever, cough, skin rashes, and low platelet count. He then developed symptoms of kidney failure.
  • Doctors had suspected that the patient had contracted dengue but later sent his sample to the institute for testing since treating him with anti-dengue drugs had not been effective.
  • Doctors said T. recovered after ten days of treatment and was discharged from the hospital in late October. T. said he had been bitten by a rat while asleep at home.

Dr Vo Minh Quang, deputy head of the hospital’s Treatment Planning Department, said the Hanta virus is found in rat excreta, such as dung, urine and saliva. 

When people come into contact with such excreta through the respiratory tract or through damaged skin, they may develop symptoms of kidney failure.

In general, the virus can cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), doctors said. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hantavirus found in Asia can cause Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS), which is fatal 5-15 percent of the time.

Not all hantavirus infections lead to diseases and not all cases are fatal, said Dr. Tran Phu Manh Sieu, director of Saigon Preventive Health Center. He was speaking to the media in the wake of a recent human infection in Saigon’s District 3.

Sieu said people should not unnecessarily panic, but act swiftly to control rodents that can also spread several other diseases.

People become infected through contact with hantavirus-infected rodents, or their urine and droppings.

Rodent invasion

According to Dr. Sieu, hantavirus infection is rare and cannot be spread from human to human.

Over the past decade, Vietnam only recorded three cases of hantavirus infection from rats and none were fatal,” he said.

However, Sieu said rats and mice do transmit other diseases such as bubonic plague and tetanus, and that residents should be vaccinated after being bitten by rodents.

Following reports on the recent hantavirus case, many residents told Vietweek about the high number of rats and mice in and around their homes.

Than, a resident of the Apartment 38 Nguyen Van Troi Street in Phu Nhuan District said the rodents have been found in all the complex’s units, including those on the sixth floor.

“They have snuck into the bedroom, wardrobe and cupboard. We can’t get rid of them all,” he said.

Phuong, a 22-year-old student at the dormitory 135B Tran Hung Dao Street in District 1 said the rats sometimes crawl across her face as she sleeps.

Dr. Nguyen Dac Tho, deputy director of Saigon Preventive Health Center, said his agency had instructed district-level preventive health agencies to issue a report on the spread of rats in order to formulate a plan to control them.

Anyone who has spent any time Saigon knows there are rats everywhere.

However, Tho said: “There are not many rats at apartments and residential areas where people maintain good hygiene.”

Dr. Sieu said discarded food, abundant in Saigon is the main reason why so many rats and mice exist in the city.

“In homes, discarded food and open trash bins attract the rodents,” he said.

He warned that most sewer systems in the city have open manholes without nets that rats can easily come out from to enter residents’ homes.

He also said many people continually litter food near manholes and do not care that they are feeding the rats with this bad habit.

“The most effective way to control rats and mice is to eliminate their food source,” Sieu concluded.

However, HPS has yet to be found in Vietnam so far, they added.


There are no specific medications nor vacinces against the Hanta virus, so prevention is very inmportant, the Institute said.


sewer rat is found on a street in HCMC (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

The HFRS, which usually appears within one or two weeks after a patient is infected with the virus, includes headaches, back pain, extreme cold, vomiting and nausea. Patients can also develop red face and skin rash.

Later, patients may suffer low blood pressure and signs of acute kidney failure. The global death toll of patients who contract HFRS is 1-15 percent, though most recover after several weeks or months of treatment, doctors said.

There have been no deaths from HFRS in Vietnam so far. In 2009, two cases of HFRS were treated successfully in the hospital and the People’s 115 Hospital.

Dr. Ly Huynh Kim Khanh, head of the Entomological Department of the Pasteur Institute, advised that people should prevent rats from entering their houses or touching food, minimize touching rats and their excreta, and not sweep or vacuum areas where rats frequent.

People contacting or handling rat traps must wash their hands later, and people should sleep in mosquito nets to avoid being bitten by rats.

Upon finding the dead body of a rat, people should neither put them into dustbins or throw them away on the street, but should report the situation to health agencies for handling.

All rat bodies must be burned or buried 0.5-1 meter deep, the doctor said.

Source Tuoi Tre & Thanh Nien

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