Emerging pathogens cause new or previously unrecognized diseases, and among them, emerging zoonotic diseases are a major concern among scientists studying infectious diseases at different spatial and temporal scales. Changes in conditions may alter population disease dynamics and lead to the emergence of zoonotic infections. During the last decades, several outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging viral pathogens have occurred, affecting both purely-local and worldwide/pandemic involvement of human populations. Among the conspicuous examples are influenza A, Ebola virus, hepatitis C virus, severe adult respiratory distress (SARS), coronavirus, and human immunodeficiency virus, which challenge prevention and control measures of public health systems. In the Americas, the recent outbreak of pandemic influenza A subtype H1N1 became a major target for control due to its rapid spread, and uncertainties in virulence and transmissibility, yet vaccine availability was limited when significant activity occurred in advance of the traditional influenza season. However, in the last century outbreaks of several viral-related diseases have emerged or re-emerged involving arenaviruses and dengue viruses, and more recently, hantaviruses, and the expansion of the geographic range of West Nile virus. Among zoonotic diseases, small mammals are hosts of several pathogenic RNA viruses, especially Arenaviridae and Bunyaviridae.
Hantaviruses in the Americas and Their Role as Emerging Pathogens. Viruses. 2010; 2(12): 2559-2586. doi:10.3390/v2122559
The continued emergence and re-emergence of pathogens represent an ongoing, sometimes major, threat to populations. Hantaviruses (family Bunyaviridae) and their associated human diseases were considered to be confined to Eurasia, but the occurrence of an outbreak in 1993–94 in the southwestern United States led to a great increase in their study among virologists worldwide. Well over 40 hantaviral genotypes have been described, the large majority since 1993, and nearly half of them pathogenic for humans. Hantaviruses cause persistent infections in their reservoir hosts, and in the Americas, human disease is manifest as a cardiopulmonary compromise, hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS), with case-fatality ratios, for the most common viral serotypes, between 30% and 40%. Habitat disturbance and larger-scale ecological disturbances, perhaps including climate change, are among the factors that may have increased the human caseload of HCPS between 1993 and the present. We consider here the features that influence the structure of host population dynamics that may lead to viral outbreaks, as well as the macromolecular determinants of hantaviruses that have been regarded as having potential contribution to pathogenicity.