Twice as many people contracted the West Nile fever in Germany this year than in 2021, Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday, citing data provided by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the national health watchdog.
The number of infections registered in Germany since the end of August has risen to ten, according to RKI. At least eight of them were proven to have been contracted within Germany, the agency’s spokeswoman told Der Spiegel.
At least four states have been affected by the spread of the disease, including the capital of Berlin, the eastern states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, as well as North Rhine-Westphalia in the west, the RKI said, adding that further cases could still be discovered.
While the number of cases doubled in comparison to 2021, it is lower than in 2020, when a total of 30 cases were registered, Der Spiegel said. Infections in Germans who had not traveled abroad were first detected in 2019.
The RKI also said that it documented the virus being transmitted between birds and mosquitos in Germany back in 2018. It is now believed the pathogen can hibernate in mosquitoes in Germany.
The fever is usually asymptomatic, meaning most cases are unreported, according to the RKI. Every fifth person infected with the virus develops flu-like symptoms, including headaches or fever, as well as vomiting or rash.
One in 100, however, can become seriously ill as the disease can cause brain inflammation, such as encephalitis or meningitis, and can lead to seizures. The likelihood of death among seriously ill patients is about 10%. Recovery may take weeks or even months. Older people and those with chronic illnesses are considered to be at particular risk of serious infections.
According to the EU health agency (ECDC), a total of 950 cases of West Nile fever have been reported throughout the bloc this year, with 82 infection-related deaths. Southern European countries appear to be disproportionately affected. Italy alone registered more than 570 cases with another 280 reported in Greece.
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