Infection confirmed: Deadly Borna virus detected in Bavaria

Bornavirus is extremely rare in humans.

Infection confirmed: Deadly Borna virus detected in Bavaria

Bornavirus is extremely rare in humans. However, a case has now been confirmed in Bavaria. The prospects for the sick person are statistically very poor.

A very rare infection with the Bornavirus BoDV-1 has been detected in Bavaria. A person from the Mühldorf am Inn district was affected, the district office said. At first there was no further information. The disease, which is usually fatal, only occurs in a few isolated cases in humans in Germany.

Two more Borna virus infections had become known in the district in the past three years. The so-called classic Borna virus triggers a brain inflammation that ends fatally in almost all cases. Survivors usually retain the most severe consequential damage. On average, two infections are reported in Germany every year. However, scientists assume that the number of unreported cases is higher – with up to six cases per year.

According to the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety (LGL), seven infections were known throughout Germany in 2021, five of them in Bavaria. The only known host of the pathogen is the field shrew, in which the infection does not cause any severe symptoms. The animals excrete the virus in urine, feces and saliva. Other mammals can become infected via this.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, it is suspected that horses or sheep, for example, come into contact with the shrew or their excretions when eating. Various transmission routes are conceivable for humans. Possible routes of infection are intake via contaminated food or water, inhalation of the virus via contaminated dust or direct contact or the bite of a shrew.

It is most likely that humans will also be infected through contact with shrew excretions. However, direct contact with the animals may not be necessary for the infection because the virus can remain infectious in the environment for longer. Overall, however, the probability of infection is considered low.

In the case of an illness, the symptoms are not easy to assign at first. Most of the previously known patients initially suffered from headaches, fever and a general feeling of illness. This is followed by neurological symptoms such as behavioral problems and speech and gait disorders. As the disease progresses, patients fall into a coma within days or a few weeks. The few known cases of the disease were fatal with only one exception. There is currently no specific therapy for Bornavirus infections.

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