Hantavirus disease was first described in Chinese literature some 900 years ago. But, the condition gained global attention during the Korean war (1950-1953) when over 3,000 United Nations armed forces were diagnosed with HFRS. At the time, the disease was called ‘Korean Hemorrhagic Fever’ (KHF) .
However, it took over 20 years before the virus was isolated. In 1976, Ho Wang Lee and his colleagues discovered an antigen in mice’s lung and kidney tissues. A couple of years later, a similar antigen was isolated from patients with hemorrhagic fever. In 1980, this novel virus was named the Hantaan virus after the Hantan river in South Korea, where it was originally discovered.
In 1982, the World Health Organization (WHO) termed diseases similar to KHF as HFRS. Shortly after, in 1984, all viruses that cause HFRS were grouped under a new genus named Hantavirus .
During the early-1990s, a second group of hantaviruses, known as ‘New World’ hantaviruses, were described in the Americas. These hantaviruses cause Hantavirus Cardiopulmonary Syndrome (HCPS) or Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) .
In the United States, HCPS was first identified in the southwestern region (known as ‘Four Corners’) in 1993. The disease was identified by Dr. Bruce Tempest and initially called “Four Corners Disease.” Later, the pathogen was renamed ‘Sin Nombre’ (without name) because residents in the ‘Four Corners’ objected to the stigma of having a disease associated with their location .