Authorities warn of nationwide rising Hantavirus infections

Infections increase massively - warning of the spread of the Hanta virus
Across Germany, there has been a significant increase in hantavirus infections this year, with the federal states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria particularly affected. In Baden-Württemberg, the authorities have counted 689 infections with the dangerous pathogen since the beginning of the year, reports the DAK-Gesundheit and calls for improved hygiene.

In Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, infections with the Hanta virus increased tenfold compared to the previous year. Across Germany, the number of infections rose from 282 in 2016 to 1,428 previously reported infections per year, reports the DAK Gesundheit, citing the figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). Only from the Saarland and Saxony-Anhalt were no Hantavirus infections reported in 2017.

Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are particularly badly affected
While in most federal states infections increased by a small number of cases, in Baden-Württemberg there were already more than 600 infections this year than in 2017. Overall, "almost every second infection registered in Germany comes from the southwest", reports the DAK. Bavaria is also badly affected, where the number of cases rose from 28 in 2016 to currently 301 cases.

Transmission via mouse droppings
The Hantavirus is transmitted through the excretion of infected animals, whereby in Central Europe mainly the vole, the fire mouse and the wandering rat are considered to be the transmitters of the pathogens, reports the DAK. The virus is absorbed by humans through contact with mouse droppings. It is therefore important to avoid contact with animal excretions and not to store any food or dishes outside the home, warns Siegfried Euerle, head of the state representative of DAK-Gesundheit Baden-Württemberg. In addition, there is also the risk of inhaling the pathogen with the dust when gardening and sweeping garden houses.

Prevention is particularly important
"Since there is currently no specific therapy for treating the virus or vaccination in Germany, preventive measures are the only way to protect yourself," emphasizes Siegfried Euerle. For this, of course, the animals should also be prevented from having access to living spaces, continues Euerle. If the rodents are already in the house, there may only be a targeted fight with traps.

Complications in ten percent of those infected
A Hantavirus infection “is similar to the flu with three to four days of fever and head, stomach and back pain,” reports the DAK. The pathogens are dangerous because they also attack the kidneys. "Even kidney failure is possible," emphasizes Siegfried Euerle. Experts estimate that complications occur in around ten percent of those infected.

Dust is also a risk
"The viruses are excreted from infected rodents via saliva, urine and faeces and can remain infectious for several days, even when dry," said the RKI. The transmission to humans takes place through the inhalation of aerosols containing viruses (e.g. whirled up dust), through the contact of the injured skin with contaminated materials (e.g. dust, floors) or through bites. It is also possible to transmit it through food that has been contaminated with excretions from infected rodents.

The RKI names the following symptoms as warnings for a Hantavirus infection:

  • acute onset of illness with fever> 38.5 ° C
  • Back pain and / or headache and / or abdominal pain
  • Proteinuria and / or hematuria
  • Serum creatinine increase
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Oliguria or subsequently polyuria

If several of the corresponding symptoms show up, according to the RKI it should be urgently serologically clarified whether there is a Hantavivurs infection.

The hantavirus was first isolated in 1977 and identified as the cause of an infectious disease that affected more than 3,000 Korean War soldiers in the early 1950s. Those affected developed a severe hemorrhagic fever, which occurs only rarely with the virus types common in Germany. The name of the virus comes from the Korean river Hantangan. (fp)

Author and source information

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