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Sin Nombre Hantavirus in the US

Author(s): Helen Wearing1, Jocelyn Colella2, Joseph Cook1, Anna Monfils3, Alejandra Camacho4, Ana Lazar5, Filipe Souza-Gudinho6

1. University of New Mexico 2. University of Kansas 3. Central Michigan University 4. Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador 5. Museu Nacional /UFRJ 6. Museu Nacional/UFRJ

A module guiding students through the review of different biodiversity data sources to identify patterns in the distribution of the Sin Nombre Hantavirus in the United States. English, Spanish, and Portuguese versions included.


English, Spanish, and Portuguese versions of this module are included. are available. 

In the Spring of 1993, 10 people in the American Southwest died of a mysterious illness within an eight-week period. All the affected individuals displayed similar symptoms: fever, muscle aches, and lethargy, followed by acute respiratory distress (Yates et al. 2002). To treat this new disease and potentially prevent future outbreaks, public health officials needed to know what the disease was and where it was coming from.  They used a variety of data sources to determine the human, environmental, and wildlife factors that led to its emergence in humans and that have periodically triggered reemergence since then. 

The Centers for Disease Control and University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and Biology Department collaborated to identify the likely pathogen. Researchers scanned an extensive frozen archive (biorepository) of wild mammal tissues that existed at the Museum of Southwestern Biology to quickly identify this new pathogen as a hantavirus, identify its wild mammalian host(s), and determine where on the landscape the virus could be found. 

The new virus was called “Sin Nombre” or “Without Name”. It is found in deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), which are extremely abundant and geographically widespread. The virus can pass to humans. Infections, like this one, that spread between people and animals, are called zoonotic diseases. 

In this module, you will review different data sources to identify patterns in the distribution of this emerging pathogen.


Upon completion of this module, each student should be able to:
1.    Visualize human hantavirus cases in the US. 
2.    Describe geographic and temporal patterns in US hantavirus case data. 
3.    Examine demographic variables in NM hantavirus case data. 
4.    Explain the role of biorepositories in zoonotic pathogen research
5.    Discuss the role of public health agencies and biodiversity infrastructure in zoonotic pathogen mitigation. 
6.    Develop hypotheses based on observed patterns.
7.    Design analyses to test hypotheses. 
8.    Perform and interpret simple statistical analyses.


Development of this module was supported through NSF 2033482.

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