Home Health Deadly Ebola-like bleeding virus 'surging through Europe' and could come to UK...

Deadly Ebola-like bleeding virus 'surging through Europe' and could come to UK next

A potentially deadly virus that can jump from animals to humans is already sweeping through northern Europe, putting the UK highly at risk.

The horrifying virus can be transmitted from rodents to humans and cause Ebola-like bleeding, according to new research.

Bank voles in Sweden carrying the pathogen have already infected two people, causing them to come down with a Viral Hemorrhagic Fever (VHF) – the same type of illness as Ebola.

Back in 2018, doctors in Sweden diagnosed a case of nephropathia epidemica caused by the virus carried by the voles – the Puumala virus.

Now, cases of what has been dubbed “vole fever” are being reported hundreds of miles away from where it is typically located with the potential to turn into a VHF.

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Doctors spotted a case of “vole fever” more than 300 miles away from where it was originally found, and the patient did not travel before catching it, meaning it had spread to their home town.

The symptoms of both cases included fever, general malaise, nosebleeds, and poor kidney function. They both recovered but prompted an investigation by scientists from Uppsala University.

The scientists tested bank voles in Scania county – where the virus was first detected – and found that nine of the 74 carried hantavirus genes.

Hantaviruses are mainly found in rodents such as mice, rats, and voles, and typically cause two types of disease in humans – hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). In the very worst case, HRFS can be fatal.

On top of this, the scientists also found that there were two strains of the virus infecting rodents – one from Sweden and one from Finland or Russian Karelia, hundreds of miles away.  

The study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases said: “Novel Puumala virus strains in a new geographic area might have a substantial effect on human health.”

Elin Economou Lundeberg, author of the study, said: “We were surprised that such high proportion of the relatively few voles that we caught were actually carrying a hantavirus that makes people ill. And this was in an area more than 500 km south of the previously known range of the virus.”

Professor Åke Lundkvist of Uppsala University, co-author of the study, questioned: “If the virus has existed in the area for a long time and has simply not been discovered, why haven’t more people become ill? Or, has it become established in Scania county recently and only just begun to spread?

“And how did it get there? Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, which considerably delayed the completion of this study. These findings are very interesting and show how important it is to investigate the causes as quickly as possible when we see an infectious disease in a new geographical area.”

Researchers are now trying to figure out where the virus comes from and map its distribution in Sweden.


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