What is hantavirus and how dangerous is it compared to the coronavirus?

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A Chinese man died of hantavirus on Monday, according to local media reports, prompting some to worry that a new infectious disease was spreading as the world is in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, officially known as COVID-19.

Hantaviruses are a different family of viruses to coronaviruses and have some crucial differences.

The main difference is that hantavirus is spread via very specific rodents and is very rarely transmitted human-to-human - unlike the coronavirus which is highly contagious. There have been no recorded cases of human-to-human transmission in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hantavirus is instead contracted via urine, feces, saliva, and bites from an infected species.

The CDC notes on its website that in the US the most common cause of hantavirus is from deer mice.

Early symptoms of the virus include fatigue, fever, and muscle cramps, and sometimes headaches, dizziness, chills or stomach problems, according to the CDC.

Hantavirus is fatal, with a mortality rate of 38 percent - far higher than coronavirus.

It was first observed in 1993 when the disease caused the Four Corners outbreak in North America. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has infected over 400,000 people, with nearly 19,000 dead.

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