Print version ISSN 0120-4157
The dawning of the 20th century was marked by the emergence of new infectious disease agents and the appearance of others previously thought controlled. Both phenomena were possibly connected with ecological disturbances that led to the recognition of a dramatic climate change, of which the effects are only now becoming noticeable. Among the variety of agents to be considered, the many new viruses stand out, not only for their numerical proliferation, but also for their genetic versatility. It is this quality that provides them dexterity for evolving new strategies and adaptations to changing environmental conditions. Recently, some of the most ubiquitous and well-publicized viral agents in the American continents have been the rodent-borne viruses, and among these are the hantaviruses, etiological agents of pulmonary syndromes. Approximately 18 hantaviruses (belonging to the family Bunyaviridae), have been discovered in South America during the last 20 years, and although most of them cause persistent infections and subclinical infections in wild rodents (particularly members of the subfamily Sigmodontinae) and humans respectively; some others might also be highly lethal for humans. The goal herein is to review the state of the art regarding general aspects of hantaviruses and the diseases they cause around the world, highlighting the most recent findings in Colombia. Finally, the many unanswered questions will be recognized and highlighted concerning clinical importance and socio-economic impact of these agents on quality of public health in Colombia.
Keywords : Hantavirus; communicable diseases; emerging; mice; persons; agriculture; Colombia.