Where the red chickens feel comfortable lurking possibly also the pathogen: According to experts in certain areas of Germany again this year, an above-average number of people could contract the hantavirus. "2019 is clearly an outbreak year," said Mirko Faber, a scientist at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin (RKI), at the request of the news agency. Since January a good 460 cases have been reported to the Institute. According to Faber, the Swabian Alb, the Stuttgart and Osnabrück areas, Lower Franconia, the Bavarian Forest, the east of Hesse, the west of Thuringia and the Münsterland are particularly affected.
The current outbreak is so far not comparable to the strong hantavirus year 2012, said Faber. At that time, more than 1100 cases were registered in the same period, the record for the whole year of about 2800 infections. In other years, fewer people fell ill annually than within six months, 2018, for example, only 235 nationwide. Strong variations from year to year are common with hantavirus.
You can get infected while sweeping the garage
In Germany, the inhalation of dust-decayed faeces of red-eared mice (also called forest vole) is the main source of infection for the hantavirus. But even with their saliva or urine, the virus is eliminated. You can get infected when cleaning up or sweeping garages or sheds. Occupational groups with a certain risk included foresters, hunters and construction workers, according to Faber. But also in the free time there are risks: protection and barbecue huts in the forest are also popular with the mice, so that one could be infected.
The numbers of illnesses vary from year to year because the likelihood of infection is related to the density of infected red chickens. "Many people become infected when there are many infected red chickens," said Faber. Especially in beech fattening years, the mouse populations get a boost due to the large feed supply.
Transmission from person to person is unlikely.
This is how you protect yourself from hantaviruses
In this country, infections with hantavirus usually cause illnesses with flu-like symptoms: high fever, headache and body aches, nausea or vomiting. Patients may cough or suffer from visual disturbances. Usually after a few days, abdominal pain is added, accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting.
The kidneys can also be affected, including acute renal failure. Only the symptoms can be treated, there is no vaccine. In other regions occurring types of the virus can cause more serious illnesses.
First symptoms usually appear two to four weeks after contact with the pathogen. As a rule, the form of illness observed in Germany heals without consequences. According to the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), deaths are "very rare".
In order to avoid contact with hantaviruses, dust should be moistened before cleaning. In addition, experts recommend spraying surfaces with a commercial disinfectant. Residential buildings should be secured against the entry of rodents.
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