Again blackbird death by Usutu viruses

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Researchers expect blackbird deaths again

The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNI) was able to detect the Usutu virus in hibernating mosquitoes, which had led to mass blackbird deaths in the past year. In a joint press release, the BNI, the Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU) and the municipal action group to combat the Schnakenplage (KABS) therefore warn of a renewed spread of the pathogens.

"We have proven that the Usutu virus hibernated in native mosquito species and that blackbirds in Germany can be infected again in early summer," explains the scientific director of KABS, Dr. Norbert Becker, in the current release. Last year the Usutu virus caused the death of thousands of blackbirds, with the songbirds being almost completely wiped out in some regions of the Rhine valley. The pathogens can cause usutu fever in humans. However, such infections have so far been extremely rare and mainly affect immunocompromised people.

Experts warn of renewed blackbird extinction The BNI in Hamburg, NABU and KABS warn against renewed blackbird death due to the detection of the Usutu virus in wintering mosquitoes. No corresponding pathogens have been found in the dead birds examined so far this year, but the mosquito season has not yet started. Last year, BNI scientists were able to detect the African virus for the first time in dead blackbirds from Birkenau in Hesse, thus establishing a clear connection between the enigmatic mass bird extinction and the pathogen. South Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate were particularly affected. In Rhineland-Palatinate, for example, the blackbird population fell by almost 50 percent compared to 2010, the experts report. According to the NABU, the songbirds have almost completely disappeared on the northern Upper Rhine plain. The North German region has so far been spared the tropical virus.

Usutu viruses detected in hibernating mosquitoes According to the current press release, the BNI "had already received dead blackbirds from Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate for testing for the tropical Usutu virus in the spring." So far, all test results have been negative . "Our rapid test results for Usutu viruses were all negative for the 25 dead birds sent in," emphasized the head of virological diagnostics at the BNI, Dr. Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit. But this is no reason to give the all-clear, since the pathogens have been found in hibernating mosquitoes. In the summer months, the experts therefore expect the blackbird to die again. "An outbreak is expected depending on the weather in late spring or summer," explained the medical doctor and ornithologist Dr. Stefan Bosch from the Naturschutzbund Deutschland. Depending on the mosquito population, the Usutu virus could also be transmitted to birds in other neighboring areas, according to Dr. Bosch in the press release "Another blackbird death due to tropical virus expected in summer".

Usutu virus can also infect humans The Usutu virus originated in Africa, where the pathogen was discovered in 1959. Outside of Africa, Usutu viruses first appeared in Vienna in 2001. The viruses were probably introduced by migratory birds. The pathogen can also be dangerous for humans, as evidenced by the infection of two immunocompromised patients in Italy in 2009. In addition to the usual symptoms of Usutu fever, such as headache, rash and fever, the affected suffered a potentially life-threatening meningitis. In 2010, the BNI experts detected the pathogens in mosquitoes for the first time in Germany, in 2011 it was detected in blackbirds. The songbirds were apparently particularly susceptible to the pathogen, whereby infected blackbirds often showed symptoms such as "scruffy plumage in the neck and head area" accompanied by "bright coloring, apathetic behavior and movement disorders", said NABU speaker, Markus Nipkow.

Population called for help According to a joint announcement by the BNI, NABU and KABS, "the first step is to geographically limit the areas affected by the outbreak and to combat the mosquito there, also to minimize the risk of human infections." So that the spread of Usutu viruses According to the experts, as many animals as possible must be examined virologically. For this reason, "blackbirds and other birds found dead should be sent to the BNI, the KABS or a local veterinary office as early as possible", explain the doctors and environmentalists. Anyone can also help to combat the mosquito by "eliminating all unnecessary water accumulation", since "many hundreds of house mosquitoes develop as larvae into pupae and fly insects", according to the BNI, NABU and KABS. The experts also advise treating "frequent breeding sites (e.g. rain barrels, gullies, septic tanks) with Culinex-Bti tablets". These tablets are based on a protein of the Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, which only kills the mosquito larvae, but does not harm other animals and humans. "One or two tablets kill the mosquitoes in a rain barrel for two to four weeks," says the statement in the current release. (fp)

Read on:
Tropical virus causes blackbird deaths
Dangerous tropical fever from bush mosquitoes

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