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First West Nile infection of the year detected in Berlin


West Nile virus under the electron microscope.

The West Nile virus has been found in two dead hawks in Berlin.

The diagnosis was made a week ago, as the Senate Department for Consumer Protection announced on Monday. According to the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI), along with an infected tawny owl from a zoo in Saxony-Anhalt, these are the first known cases in Germany this year.

West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes

The West Nile virus originates in Africa and is transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the Senate Department, there have been annual outbreaks in birds in Berlin since 2018. Last year, 21 cases were registered. In rarer cases, horses and humans could also become infected. In horses, an infection can lead to neurological impairments that are often irreversible. According to the authority, a vaccine is therefore available to protect the animals.

17 West Nile infections in humans last year

According to the FLI, there were 17 registered cases in horses and 54 in birds nationwide last year. As before, the majority of these were detected in the federal states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony, as well as some cases in Thuringia. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 17 West Nile infections were detected in humans in Germany last year, and none this year until the end of July.

Course of disease usually mild for humans

Other animals also contract the virus, which was first identified in Uganda in 1937. Owls, raptors and corvids as well as many songbird species are considered particularly susceptible to the virus. In humans, the infection is mostly inconspicuous or mild. According to the RKI, about 20 percent of those infected develop a feverish illness that lasts three to six days. Only about one in 100 infected persons becomes seriously ill. There is no vaccination for humans.

Author: dpa/
Publication date: 1 August 2023
Last updated: 1 August 2023

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