So far 562 cases and 240 hospitalizations have been reported in Slovenia, where health authorities fear the spread of the rodent-borne disease. The viral infection also resulted in one death. The largest number of cases in Nova Gorica.
One death, 240 hospitalizations and almost 600 cases since the beginning of the year, many more than in 2020, when there were 14 reports. These are the numbers of the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) of Slovenia, which asks to keep high attention on the increase of cases of the so-called mouse fever, an infection caused by viruses belonging to the family of Hantavirus. The Institute had publicly warned, in April of this year, that the number of cases of infection far exceeded that of previous years. The problem had already occurred in 2002, in 2012 and 2019, and is probably linked to the periodic high reproductive intensity of the mice.
Cases on the rise in Slovenia
According to NIJZ data, most of the new cases of mouse fever (253 out of 562) have been registered in the Gorizia region, and the municipality with the highest number of infections is Nova Gorica, where 77 cases have been reported so far. The virus that causes the viral disease is transmitted to humans by rodents, through contact with infected mice or their droppings. The virus is present in the urine and feces of rodents, and the infection can eventually be contracted by inhaling viral particles in places where large amounts of rodent droppings are present. Some evidence indicates that the virus rarely transmits from person to person.
The reason for the increase in cases, the NIJZ points out, is the abundance of beech trees last fall. “Consequentially, many acorns were available, which means that there was at least theoretically enough food for the rodents. If there is enough food available, animals also multiply faster, and hot summer and early autumn can also contribute to this.” .
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What is Mouse Fever
There are various strains of Hantavirus and, depending on the strain, the virus can affect the lungs, causing hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or the kidneys, causing a hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome. The initial signs and symptoms of mouse fever causing pulmonary syndrome are often indistinguishable from coronavirus disease (Covid-19). However, this distinction is critical, as the course of the disease differs greatly. Sudden fever, headache, and body aches usually appear two weeks after infection. People with kidney syndrome also show abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea that can persist for several days.
In severe cases, kidney failure can develop and urine production can stop. Treatment includes supportive care, dialysis (which can be life-saving), and ribavirin antiviral therapy, which can help reduce symptom severity and mortality. Most people survive the infection and recover in 3-6 weeks, although recovery can take up to six months. Death occurs in 6-15% of cases.