Tips to avoid exposure from bank vole rodents in Germany

Red Bank Vole rodent found in forest areas of Germany.

Hantavirus or Puumala (PUUV) is an infection transmitted to humans from rodents, such as the Red Bank Vole found in Germany, primarily through inhalation of dust particles containing dried urine or feces.

According to Jennifer Steele, U.S. European Command infectious disease subject matter expert, the height of hantavirus season begins in May.

The Red Bank Vole is found in Baden-Württemberg in woodland areas, and comes out most when fruit and nuts are plentiful in forests during the year. Increased numbers of human cases are usually associated with an increase in the Red Bank Vole population which varies from year to year.

The first detection of PUUV in Germany was in the 1980s during a Belgian military exercise.

Approximately 5 to 20 percent of people exposed to the virus actually become sick with flu-like symptoms.

Tips to avoid exposure:

• Ensure prompt removal of trash and clutter to help deter rodents.

• Keep grass cut and hedges away from buildings.

•  If you have firewood stacked a home, store it away from the house.

• Avoid dusty sheds or attics that may have a rodent nest.  If you do clean these areas, moisten the dusty surfaces with water containing a mild detergent and household sanitizers. Household bleach (1.5 cups to 1 gallon of water) can be used to sanitize. Wear gloves and avoid splashing the mixture in your eyes or on your skin. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after cleaning.

Anyone developing flu-like symptoms after entering a dusty building or after handling a dead rodent should seek medical attention immediately. There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Hantavirus.

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