How European countries prevent and communicate on Hantavirus infection, ECDC study


​Prompted by the increase of hantavirus activity in Europe observed in 2012, ECDC report reviewed the preventive measures and communication strategies in European countries.

​Prompted by the increase of hantavirus activity in Europe observed in 2012, ECDC report reviewed the preventive measures and communication strategies in European countries. 
Hantaviruses are almost exclusively transmitted through the inhalation of infectious aerosol from rodent excreta. The severity of the hantavirus infection varies from asymptomatic through mild to severe. The symptoms include acute fever accompanied by thrombocytopenia, headache, often very severe, and abdominal and back pains without clear respiratory tract symptoms. Most cases of Hantavirus infection in Europe are found in Finland, Sweden, Germany and Austria.
Human behaviour plays a crucial role as a risk factor in the transmission of hantavirus infections. Hence, prevention is based on communicating and adopting personal preventive measures, such as avoidance of virus-contaminated dust through cleaning with disinfectants, improved ventilation and wearing face masks. Certain outdoor activities such as woodcutting, forestry, farming, camping or using summer houses are risk factors.
The report gives an overview of the current situation of prevention and communication on Hantavirus in the European countries, following a literature review and a survey among 29 European countries:

  • 28 countries have a surveillance system for hantavirus infection, with a number of different case definitions, while no common EU case definition exists.
  • Preventive measures for hantavirus are provided by twenty-six countries at national level.
  • National public health institutes, supported by the regional services in most of the countries communicate preventive measures to the general population during outbreaks, only nine countries -on a regular basis.
  • The most frequent communication tools are mass media (TV, radio, newspapers), institutional websites (health and occupational health), presentations and workshops for health professionals, and articles in specialised journals (hunters, pest controllers, etc.).
  • Two countries have assessed hantavirus preventive measures, communication strategies or the level of awareness/knowledge in the general population on hantavirus.

It also provides suggestions to improve the communication and prevention of hantavirus:

  • A common case definition at the European level
  • Sharing information on prevention and communication among the countries,
  • Assessing the impact of prevention to support evidence-based preventive measures
  • A better understanding of the risk factors, risk groups, and the effectiveness of preventive measures through multidisciplinary collaboration among experts
  • Assessing  the impact of communication strategies on the relevant target groups with regard to disease awareness, knowledge, and preventive measures needs to be assessed to improve communication. 

Read the report: Prevention measures and communication strategies for hantavirus infection in Europe