The tiger mosquito brings these dangerous viruses to Austria

It’s all set: “A warm period followed by a wet period, these are ideal conditions for mosquitoes to multiply,” says Johannes Pleiner-Ducksneuner from the Agency for Health and Food Safety. Gelsen’s high season is almost upon us – and in addition to native species, exotic mosquitoes are also making their way into Austria. A development that infectious disease experts such as Robert Graz (MedUni Graz) observe with great concern: “We are getting new infectious diseases that are a burden for the population and the health system.” Change can make us sick “We can achieve what we didn’t have before.”

Styria is highlighted in dark red on the map: it shows areas of Europe where the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) has already spread and settled. According to the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC), Austria is one of 13 European countries that are now home to the once exotic mosquito. She carries with her dangerous viruses that can cause infectious diseases. According to Robert Krause, there are two pathogens in particular that are worryingly being spread by tiger mosquitoes in Europe: dengue virus and chikungunya virus.

Johannes Pleiner-Duxneuner, age

© Harold Eisenberger

Severe pain in muscles and joints

In addition to high temperature, dengue fever is characterized by severe joint, muscle and joint pain, which has given the disease the nickname “bone-breaking fever”. Skin rash also occurs. According to Robert Cross, in five to ten percent of cases, the infection becomes severe enough to require hospitalization. “Similar to what we see with people with long-term Covid-19, dengue fever presents with severe physical weakness after the illness,” Krause says. Chikungunya fever has an amusing nickname because the translated word means: one who walks crookedly. The cause is again severe joint, muscle and joint pain, which lasts long after the fever has passed. “Such viral infections are particularly dangerous for people with pre-existing illnesses and those with weakened immune systems,” says Bleiner-Duxnuner. “So diseases can also be fatal.”

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So far, the two experts stress, there have been no infections with these viruses within Austria: 30 to 120 dengue cases diagnosed in Austria each year affect travelers returning from high-risk areas. However: “There are already transmissions in northern Italy. “So it will take some time for these infections to reach us,” says Krause. They are images that have an unpleasant impact: workers in orange suits and breathing masks spray insecticides over large areas in two districts of Trieste to fight tiger mosquitoes. Dengue Background: In 2023, there were 130 dengue infections within the European Union, according to the ECDC.

Robert Krause, an infectious disease specialist at Krause University Hospital

Robert Krause, an infectious disease specialist at Krause University Hospital

© LKH University. Gross/Styber Hospital

Roundworms under the skin

Less dangerous, but even more terrifying, is a mosquito-borne parasite: roundworms called dirofilariasis. These roundworms occur primarily in dogs; Very rarely, internal organs can be affected,” explains Krause. The disease is actually limited to the Mediterranean region, but there are also isolated cases of Austrian patients who have not traveled. “So we have to assume that the disease also spreads in Austria,” says Krause, but dirofilariasis in humans is very rare and He says it is harmless in skin infections.

Even small amounts of water are sufficient for Asian tiger mosquitoes to breed: flower pots, rain barrels, water collecting tires. “A parasol stand with an open top can become an ideal breeding ground,” says Pleiner-Ducksneuner, so she urges people to avoid bodies of water around their own homes or to empty them regularly. Otherwise you can protect yourself from mosquito bites with insect repellent and long clothes. Aegis, in turn, operates the Gelson Observatory throughout Austria to monitor the spread of exotic mosquitoes in Austria. The 2023 report shows: The Asian tiger mosquito is already established, especially in the regions of Graz and Vienna, where it is found in high numbers. A particular hotspot for transmission is motorway service areas, which show that mosquitoes are transmitted by road traffic.

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