The number of hantavirus infections was particularly high in 2017

The number of hantavirus infections was particularly high in 2017 / Health News

Review: Significantly more people infected with hantavirus

In 2017, significantly more people became infected with hantavirus than in the previous year. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), more than 1,700 cases were registered last year. Health experts point out how to protect yourself from infection.

Significantly more hantavirus infections

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) registered a total of 1,713 cases of hantavirus infections in Germany in 2017 (as of February 2018). "Thus, the number of cases was several times higher than the annual average figures since the introduction of the obligation to register in 2001," writes the RKI in the current Epidemiological Bulletin. "Only in 2007 (1,687 cases), 2010 (2,016 cases) and 2012 (2,825 cases) were there similar or even higher case numbers."

In the past year, there were significantly more hantavirus infections in Germany than in 2016. The red chick is in this country as the main transmitter of hantavirus. (Image: Bernd Wolter /

Disease starts with flu-like symptoms

Hantavirus types found in Germany usually cause illnesses with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, abdominal pain and backache.

In addition, it can also lead to a drop in blood pressure.

There are also more serious illnesses possible: "Hantavirus infections in Central Europe can cause kidney dysfunction until acute renal failure," said the RKI on its website.

But for most people who become infected with the virus, there are no or only nonspecific symptoms.

Virus transmission via the respiratory tract or by smear infections

In a leaflet of the RKI one learns how to be infected: Hantaviruses are excreted by infected rodents (for example, mice and rats) and shrews via saliva, urine and faeces.

Transmission to humans takes place either via the respiratory tract or through smear infections via the hands.

"Humans become infected through contact with excretions from infected rodents when contaminated dust is whirled up and the pathogens are inhaled."

For contagion no direct contact with the animals is necessary. Bite infection from infected rodents is also possible, according to RKI.

Transmission from human to human, as well as infection via pets or via vectors (for example mosquitoes or ticks) are unlikely to occur.

Cause of the increase in infections

The reason for the increase in infections is, according to experts, a strong occurrence of beechnuts in recent years. Due to the good food supply, especially the red chick had proliferated.

This also increased the number of infected animals, making transmission to humans more likely.

The mouse stocks are cyclical. Therefore, there are always years with heaped cases of hantavirus. Infections are notifiable.

That's how you can protect yourself

The RKI also explains how to protect yourself: "You can reduce the risk of hantavirus infection by avoiding contact with rodents and their excretions and taking certain precautions."

According to the experts, this includes "above all preventing the penetration of rodents into the living area and its immediate surroundings."

These measures should be implemented, especially in known endemic areas, if rodent infestation has been identified or if activities are performed in locations where rodents are expected to occur.

According to experts, rooms with mouse infestation should be ventilated for 30 minutes before cleaning to remove potentially infectious dust particles from the air. In addition, moistening can prevent the formation of dust.

When working, cleaning, sweeping and cleaning respirator mask and disposable gloves should be worn, as the hantavirus can also be made by the contact of injured skin with contaminated materials.

Dead animals and their excrements should be sprayed with disinfectant, handled only with gloves and then disposed of in household waste in a separate plastic bag. (Ad)