Hantavirus: Dangerous mouse feces


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For several years, medical doctors register increasing infection rates for hantavirus. The forms of Hantavirus in Europe, however, are relatively harmless compared to the South American virus strains: In addition, an infection is not always attributed to this virus, since the symptoms of fever, limb and headaches are very flu-like. According to Prof. dr. Detlev Krüger, director of the Institute of Medical Virology at the Berlin Charité, about 90 percent of the infections are not recognized at all, because they do not bring any strong symptoms. If so, often a classic flu is suspected. Therefore, it is difficult to assess whether the number of infected people is actually increasing, or whether the supposed increase is due only to improved diagnostics.

The transmission path of the hantavirus

The transmitter of the Hantavirus is in our latitudes mostly the reddish or also forest vole (Myodes glareolus). As the name suggests, the small rodent lives mainly in the forest or at the edge of the forest, which is why mainly people are endangered who live there or spend a lot of time in the forest. The transmission of the virus takes place through contact with the excreta, ie the faeces and urine of the red chickadee - for example in firewood and mushroom, berry and nut collecting.
Much higher is the risk of infection, however, if the area of ​​life of the red chick overlaps with ours. The rodents like to use garden sheds, sheds, attics and garages as winter quarters, where they leave their excretions there. If there is a spring cleaning on, there is a high risk that the viruses will be inhaled with the dust raised.

Garden shed at the edge of the forest

Garden sheds at the edge of the forest are often winter quarters of red chickens and can therefore be contaminated with hantavirus

Prevention minimizes the risk of infection

Even if the hantavirus leads to dangerous kidney failure only in very few cases (below 0.1 percent), the risk of infection can be minimized with simple measures:

  • Wipe endangered areas in the house and garden as damp as possible so that as little dust as possible is whirled up
  • If you live at the edge of the forest, you should always wear a dust mask when cleaning
  • When cleaning floors, be careful not to touch your eyes, mouth and nose with your hands
  • Use a hypoallergenic vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter
  • Wash your hands after work and wear work gloves

Currently, a vaccine against hantavirus is being tested. However, this is not yet approved, which is why infection prevention is currently the best and only protection.

Hantavirus: facts and figures

The cases of infection per year in Germany fluctuate very strongly and usually correlate with previous so-called fattening years, in which the forest trees bear many fruits, followed by mild winters. Both lead to a strong increase of the red chickadee population. Since the small rodents feed mainly on beechnuts, acorns, nuts and other tree fruits, it is easy to assess whether the risk of infection increases in the following year. The most proven cases of infection, namely 2824, occurred in Germany in 2012. However, it should be noted that this figure refers to actually identified infections. Due to the flu-like course, there is probably a high number of unreported cases, especially in years with strong flu outbreaks.
Prof. Dr. Krüger suspects that 2017 could become a new record year, based on current case numbers. Thus, since the beginning of 2017, the Robert Koch Institute has already reported 450 cases only in Baden-Württemberg and 607 cases throughout Germany.

If you live in a vulnerable area, you can find the following map of the Robert Koch Institute from the year 2012.

Hantavirus in Germany

Hantavirus in Germany

The more intense the color area, the more hantavirus infections were reported in these areas

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