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Rev Med Virol. 2013 Jan;23(1):35-49. doi: 10.1002/rmv.1722. Epub 2012 Jul 3.

Hantavirus infections in Europe and their impact on public health.

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Department of Virology, Haartman Institute, and Research Programs Unit, Infection Biology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


Hantaviruses (genus Hantavirus, family Bunyaviridae) are enveloped tri-segmented negative-stranded RNA viruses each carried by a specific rodent or insectivore host species. Several different hantaviruses known to infect humans circulate in Europe. The most common is Puumala (PUUV) carried by the bank vole; another two important, genetically closely related ones are Dobrava-Belgrade (DOBV) and Saaremaa viruses (SAAV) carried by Apodemus mice (species names follow the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses nomenclature). Of the two hantaviral diseases, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantaviral cardiopulmonary syndrome, the European viruses cause only HFRS: DOBV with often severe symptoms and a high case fatality rate, and PUUV and SAAV more often mild disease. More than 10,000 HFRS cases are diagnosed annually in Europe and in increasing numbers. Whether this is because of increasing recognition by the medical community or due to environmental factors such as climate change, or both, is not known. Nevertheless, in large areas of Europe, the population has a considerable seroprevalence but only relatively few HFRS cases are reported. Moreover, no epidemiological data are available from many countries. We know now that cardiac, pulmonary, ocular and hormonal disorders are, besides renal changes, common during the acute stage of PUUV and DOBV infection. About 5% of hospitalized PUUV and 16%-48% of DOBV patients require dialysis and some prolonged intensive-care treatment. Although PUUV-HFRS has a low case fatality rate, complications and long-term hormonal, renal, and cardiovascular consequences commonly occur. No vaccine or specific therapy is in general use in Europe. We conclude that hantaviruses have a significant impact on public health in Europe.

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