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Recent outbreaks have put Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome in the news. Learn what it is, how its spread, and what you can do to avoid it.** **
Until very recently, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome was virtually unheard of by the average American. However, the latest outbreak cases at Yosemite made it one of the most feared viruses to date. This rare but serious respiratory disease was most recently responsible for infecting 6 people at Yosemite and killing 3. According to the National Park Service, to date, there have been over 600 cases reported nationally. People weren't really sure how the virus began and are now understandably nervous about visiting Yosemite or other National Parks. This article will explain what Hantavirus is, how it's spread, who carries it and how to prevent catching it.
How is it Contracted?
Before understanding exactly how it's contracted, you must be aware of who carries it. In general terms, specific types of mice are the carriers of Hantavirus. including: - Deer Mice - Deer mice carry the Sin Nombre Hantavirus strain, and are found mainly in woodlands and desert areas. - Cotton Rats - Cotton rats arry the Black Creek Canal strain of Hantavirus . They're mostly found in Southeastern and Central states, but have also been spotted in South America. - Rice Rats - Rice rats carry the Bayou Virus stain, which is mainly found in semi-aquatic areas of the Southeastern and Central regions of the U.S. - White-Footed Mice - White-footed mice carry the Mid-Atlantic strain. They are mainly found throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, but have been spotted as far north as New England. They have also been found in many Midwestern, Southern and Western states. There are other rodents and mice that are suspected carriers of Hantavirus strains. The reason they aren't listed here is because the CDC hasn't identified them yet.
Rodent to Human Spread
The infection is spread from rodent to human through rodent urine, droppings, and nesting material. The droplets of the virus become airborne and people inhale it, thus making Hantavirus an airborne virus. Some experts believe that the virus can also be transmitted though mucous membranes (i.e. touching the mouth or eyes with infected hands and eating contaminated food).
What are the Symptoms of Hantavirus?
The symptoms of Hantavirus are very similar to the flu, which is why some cases are left untreated until complications occur. Early symptoms of the virus include: - Fever - Headaches - Dizziness - Chills - Digestive discomfort - Muscle aches These symptoms appear 1 to 5 weeks after exposure. Since you can't tell by symptoms alone whether or not you have contracted Hantavirus, you'll have to see a doctor and get a blood test to confirm a diagnosis.
Why is it so Dangerous?
Unlike some viruses that lay dormant in the body, the Hantavirus can be fatal. People who get this virus may believe they have the flu. Within the first 10 days of the infection, you may feel run-down, achy and ill. After 10 days, the virus quickly progresses into life-threatening complications that include: - Shortness of breath - Constant coughing - Chest pressure Most of these symptoms are caused by the lungs filling with fluid, which has been fatal in over 38% of cases left untreated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to avoid contracting the virus is to stay away from rodents, not just mice. If you live in an area that's susceptible to rodents, plug up any holes in and around your home to keep them out. Other helpful tips include: - Not leaving food out overnight - Keeping a clean home - Taking the trash out regularly - Setting mouse traps to reduce the mouse population If the above methods fail and you continue to see mice, contact an exterminator. They are equipped with chemicals that can greatly reduce the rodent population in or around your home or business. Another thing to remember is to not handle mouse droppings without gloves. Some of the people who developed the virus developed it after handling or being near droppings.