Hantavirus infection in Belgium
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Annales de médecine vétérinaire. - Liège
, p. 257-262
University of Antwerp
Hantavirus disease is a recently recognized anthropozoonosis with Hantavirus, a cosmopolite hemorrhagic fever virus of the Bunyaviridae family, as etiologic agent and wild rodents (or laboratory rats) as vector. Involved rodents remain apparently healthy, but excrete for most of their life infectious virus in urine, feces and saliva, which can be transmitted to man via aerosolization. Man is the only known endpoint of infection, with the kidney as main target organ (acute renal failure), but systemic illness with multi-organ impairment can also occur. At least 8 distinct Hantavirus serotypes have been isolated so far, 5 of which have a recognized clinical significance. Each serotype has his specific main rodent reservoir and geographical distribution. For Europe, the red bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) is the main rodent vector, carrying the Puumala (PUU) serotype, the etiologic agent of a viral condition known as Nephropathia epidemica (NE). Belgium witnessed its most important outbreak so far (more than 60 human cases) of PUU-induced NE in 1993 in the Southern part of the region between Sambre and Meuse, with Chimay as the principal focus. A very dense local population of bank voles was noted, probably related to some recent ecological disturbances. Data of successive rodent captures in the epidemic area of Chimay are briefly summarized. NE should be recognized as a novel zoonosis by veterinarians, forest keepers and other professional groups involved with rodents.