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Ziegler, Ute; Luehken, Renke; Keller, Markus; Cadar, Daniel; van der Grinten, Elisabeth; Michel, Friederike; Albrecht, Kerstin; Eiden, Martin; Rinder, Monika; Lachmann, Lars; Hoeper, Dirk; Vina-Rodriguez, Ariel; Gaede, Wolfgang; Pohl, Andres; Schmidt-Chanasit, Jonas and Groschup, Martin H. (2019): West Nile virus epizootic in Germany, 2018. In: Antiviral Research, Vol. 162: pp. 39-43

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The summer of 2018 in Germany was the second hottest and driest on record. These generally extremely favorable climatic conditions most likely triggered the further expansion and the efficient propagation of the zoonotic arthropod-borne West Nile virus in many Southern/Southeastern and even Central European countries. WNV infections were detected for the first time in resident wild and aviary birds, such as common blackbirds, northern goshawks and great grey owls in Eastern and Southeastern Germany. The causative WNV strain belonged to the central European subclade II. Phylogeographic analysis indicated a single introduction event of WNV into Germany, most likely in 2016 from Czech Republic, and also a unique non-synonymous mutation in the NS3 gene. Extraordinary high temperatures in 2018 presumably led to decreased averaged extrinsic incubation period values for WNV in mosquitoes, leading to rapid virus amplification and greater transmission risk for vertebrates in Germany. Blood transfusion services and clinicians in Germany should be aware of these possible WNV infection risks in humans especially during late summer.

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