Residual Hanta Study

Interview by Janet Yagoda Shagam

As part of a five-year program to study the long-term effects of Hantavirus infection, patients from various locations in the United States come to the University of New Mexico Hospital. The 26 patients who participate in this study come to University Hospital six months after their infection and then annually for the remaining four years. Patients are given a complete physical to assess their physical, neurological and emotional status as well as a battery of laboratory tests to assess liver, kidney and cardiopulmonary functions.

Pictured here are Nina and Dr. Diane Goade.

Nina, a patient who was interviewed nearly a year ago for Souvenirs , is one of the patients in the Residual Hantavirus Study. She and another Hantavirus patient recently drove from southwestern Kansas for their second visit to the University of New Mexico Hospital.

Nina admits this is a pretty strange way to use vacation time, but because she is compelled to learn as much as possible about the disease she is an enthusiastic participant in the program. " I am fascinated by this rare disease, and because I have had an experience that has been shared by few others, I feel the need to be connected."  In addition to the time she spends in the UNM study, Nina has taken an active role in her community to educate the public about the disease.

During her physical Nina stated that compared to this time last year she is not feeling as well. Although she emotionally feels good, she tires more easily, experiences more things that hurt and has an increased intolerance for cold. Over the past months there has been an increase in shoulder pain, sciatic nerve pain and muscle cramps. Her local doctors are not able to associate these problems with the Hantavirus infection and feel that it might be arthritis.

Nina works full-time in a hospital medical laboratory but is able to adjust her work schedule to accommodate her need for rest. She finds that when tired she neither tolerates nor is refreshed by exercise. She has had to make some changes in her lifestyle which include getting enough sleep and not worrying about the house.

Nina reports that she does not have chest pain, palpitations or shortness of breath. However, due to muscle weakness and numb fingers on her left side she feels somewhat clumsy. And unlike her statement of nearly a year ago, Nina readily admits to having problems with memory loss.

According to Dr. Diane Goade, one of the physicians involved in the study, increased muscle pain and muscle weakness is a common finding among the Hantavirus survivors. Since it is now thought that Hantavirus stimulates an inappropriately strong immune response in the infected host, it is not surprising to see these residual problems.

Optional Assignment: Conduct your own interview

 Return to LifeLines OnLine Special Edition