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Emerg Infect Dis. 1997 Apr-Jun;3(2):205-11.

The hantaviruses of Europe: from the bedside to the bench.

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Queen Astrid Military Hospital, Brussels, Belgium.


In Europe, hantavirus disease can hardly be called an emerging zoonosis; it is rather a rediscovered disease. Since 1934 an epidemic condition with primarily renal involvement has been described in Sweden. Nowadays, hundreds to thousands of cases per year are registered in Fennoscandia, fluctuating with the numbers of the specific Arvicoline-rodent reservoir, the red bank vole, which carries the main European serotype, Puumala (PUU). In the early 1980s, the rat-transmitted serotype, Seoul (SEO), caused laboratory outbreaks throughout Europe, and recent reports also suggest sporadic, wild rat-spread hantavirus disease. In the Balkans, at least four serotypes are present simultaneously: PUU, SEO, the "Korean" prototype Hantaan (HTN) or HTN-like types, and Dobrava, the latter causing a mortality rate of up to 20%. Moreover, recent genotyping studies have disclosed several PUU-like genotypes spread in Europe and/or Russia by other genera of the Arvicoline-rodent subfamily: Tula, Tobetsu, Khabarovsk, and Topografov. Their importance for human pathogenicity is still unclear, but serologic cross-reactions with PUU antigen might have caused their misdiagnosis as PUU-infections in the past.

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