Public health authorities in Baden-Wuerttemberg have reported an increase in cases of hantavirus disease from 1 January 2019 to 15 May 2019. During this period, there have been 211 cases in the north, centre and south of the state, compared to 12 cases during the same period in 2018. Increases are known to occur in years when the population of bank voles grows due to increased food supply.
Spring cleaning garages, cellars and sheds is associated with hantavirus infection in Germany.
While the risk to most travellers is low, this risk is increased in areas close to rural forested areas and to rodent infested buildings. Those most likely to be exposed are campers, agricultural workers, building workers and soldiers.
Travellers should be advised of the risk of infection and take the following steps to minimise exposure to rodent excreta:
- wearing protective clothing, including face masks, when working in environments which may be contaminated with rodent faeces and urine
- ensuring adequate ventilation when working in such environments
- ensuring that accommodation that has been out of use for many months is well ventilated prior to entry
Hantavirus can cause serious illness in some cases, while headache, fever, influenza-like symptoms, rash back pain and kidney damage may occur.
There is no licensed vaccine for hantavirus in Europe.
Sources: fitfortravel and Travax (both 27 May 2019)