Community ecology of small mammal populations in Panamá following an outbreak of Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome

Luis A. Ruedas, Jorge Salazar-Bravo, David S. Tinnin, Blas Armién, Lorenzo Cáceres, Arsenio García, Mario Ávila Díaz, Fernando Gracia, Gerardo Suzán, C. J. Peters, Terry L. Yates, James N. Mills

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53 Scopus citations


In late 1999 and early 2000, an outbreak of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) occurred in and around Los Santos, on the Azuero Peninsula of southwestern Panamá. This HPS episode, resulting in 22% case fatality, was linked to the Costa Rican pigmy rice rat. Oligoryzumys fulvescens costuricensis, which barbored a then undescribed hantavirus, Choclo virus. In addition, Cherrie's cane rat, Zygodontomys brevicauda cherrici, was identified as carrying a distinct hantavirus. Calabazo virus with no known pathogenicity to humans. Herein we present the ecological results of the outbreak investigations in the Azuero region. A total of 164 animals were captured, of which 126 were potential small, non-volant mammal hosts of a hantavirus: rodents in the family Muridae. There were significant differences in small mammal community structure between case sites and a negative control site. Differences were manifest in ecological measures of species diversity and in species evenness and heterogeneity measures, as indicated by Pairwise Euclidian distances and Morisita indices of community similarity. Our analyses suggest that human activities (i.e., deforestation for cattle ranching) coupled with environmental factors (i.e., increased precipitation) may have synergistically coalesced for an increased risk of HPS to area residents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-191
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Vector Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Calabazo virus
  • Choclo virus
  • Hantavirus ecology
  • Muridae
  • Panama
  • Sigmodontinae


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