In Bavaria, a person became infected with the very rare Borna virus. exposed to according to the district administration man from the Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen region. Authorities did not provide any additional information about the infected person.
In Germany, only a few cases are reported each year. “It is estimated that between two and six acute illnesses occur annually in Germany,” reports the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). According to LGL The number of identified human cases is in the mid-double digit range (as of November 2023). Infestations must be reported as of March 1, 2020. Since then, the Robert Koch Institute has received up to six acute cases per reporting year. More than 90 percent of them were registered in Bavaria.
Borna viruses are transmitted by shrews.
The causative agent of Borna disease is the so-called Borna disease virus 1 (BoDV-1). The disease has been known in animals for over 250 years and causes severe inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) in humans. For the first time, human infection with the classic Borna virus was proven in 2018. reports the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM).. Current evidence suggests that the disease is transmitted by shrews (Crocidura leucodon) through saliva, urine or feces.
How exactly viruses are transmitted from mice to humans is still unclear. As LGL writes, different paths are possible. For example, “by ingesting the virus through contaminated food or water, inhaling the virus through contaminated dust, or even through direct contact or a shrew bite.” Intermediate hosts can also transmit viruses, such as domestic cats preying on shrews. It is considered “extremely unlikely” that an infected person will pass the virus on to another.
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The disease leads to death in most cases
“In most cases, the disease leads to death approximately one to four months after the first symptoms appear,” reports BNITM. According to the RKI, BoDV-1 infection initially manifests itself through headaches, fever and general malaise.
In addition, neurological symptoms such as behavior problems, speech and gait disturbances occur over time; in extreme cases, patients fall into a coma. “There is currently no specific therapy for Borna virus infections, so treatment consists of supportive measures with intensive medical care,” writes the RKI.
This is why prevention is the be-all and end-all of preventing infection from a life-threatening virus. This includes, first and foremost, avoiding contact with shrews and their droppings. If you do come into contact with them, you should wear rubber gloves and mouth and nose protection, even if you have dead mice brought in by your house cat. Dead mice should be disposed of in a plastic bag in the trash, and contaminated surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned with a household cleaner. After this, a thorough shower and shampoo will help. Clothes should also be washed.
- Press release from the Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen district office (as of November 21, 2023)
- rki.de: “Information sheet: Information on how to avoid becoming infected with Borna disease virus 1”
- lgl.bayern.de: “Borna virus disease” (as of November 21, 2023)
- bnitm.de: “Encephalitis caused by bornaviruses (BoDV-1 and VSBV-1)”
Note. This article was last published in June 2022 and has been revised and updated due to current events.
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