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ILLNESS

Bird flu virus now discovered in seagulls in Berlin

The aggressive bird flu H5N8 had already spread into several German states, and was detected in Berlin and Brandenburg on Friday.

Bird flu virus now discovered in seagulls in Berlin
File Photo DPA

The Berlin-Brandenburg state laboratory has discovered bird flu pathogens in two birds in the Mitte and Treptow-Köpenick districts of Germany’s capital, according to the Berliner Morgenpost.

This follows news over the past couple of weeks that the virus has been identified in several other German states and other European countries.

There is also a suspicion swans have been affected in Berlin’s Landwehr Canal, which runs parallel to the River Spree in Berlin, but a final confirmation of that is still pending.

A dead seagull in the Brandenburg town of Werder near Potsdam was also discovered to have had bird flu, the state Consumer Protection agency disclosed on Friday.

The authorities swiftly set up a restricted area and a monitoring area around that location, and introduced restrictions on poultry owners.

Ducks, geese and chickens are not allowed to leave the restricted area for 21 days and the monitoring area for 15 days.

Existing stocks are then to be methodically checked, and cats and dogs prevented from roaming.

Brandenburg’s Consumer Protection minister has imposed a quarantine on birds across the whole state.

This applies not only to commercial farmers but also hobby poultry owners, according to an agency spokesperson. The quarantines must be secure, and protective clothing worn, which must be disinfected on exit.

The state of Hamburg also implemented new rules on Sunday requiring dogs to be kept on leashes, and restricting the freedom of movement of cats, due to the spread of the highly contagious pathogen.

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HEALTH

Flu virus in Germany causes more than 30 deaths and leaves 3,500 in hospital

A flu wave has taken hold in Germany, with more than 30 deaths reported so far. Here's what you need to know.

Flu virus in Germany causes more than 30 deaths and leaves 3,500 in hospital
Photo: DPA

Since the start of the winter season, more than 13,000 cases of flu have been reported and the number of confirmed cases is rising, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Since the start of the season in October 2019, 13,350 cases across the country have been confirmed by laboratory tests. A total of 4,439 cases were reported last week, signalling that flu season is taking hold.

So far, 32 people are known to have died after contracting flu, while more than 3,500 patients have been treated in hospital. In addition, 15 outbreaks in Kindergartens have been reported.

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system.

Colloquially, colds and flu are often used interchangeably, but the real flu is usually much more severe and occurs when you suddenly feel very sick and experience a combination of fever, headaches, limb pains and a dry cough.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor appointment in Germany

Those at risk from contracting the virus have been urged to get vaccinated against it.

“The wave will continue for several more weeks,” RKI expert Silke Buda told DPA.

The vaccination is recommended for people over the age of 60, the chronically ill, pregnant women as well as doctors and nurses.

Buda said those at risk should get vaccinated quickly.  “It will take up to 14 days until the protection is established,” she said.

The figures show only a snapshot of the full picture. According to RKI estimates, 5 to 20 percent of the population is infected during flu outbreaks. 

Tens of thousands of people can die during violent waves, with mostly senior citizens affected as they are at highest risk of developing a serious illness. The severity of the flu waves vary from year to year. Last winter, the RKI assessed the season as 'moderate'.

Where can I get vaccinated?

According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute, more than 21 million vaccine doses have been administered in Germany so far.

October and November are considered the best time to get vaccinated – before the flu epidemic really takes off. But there's still time if you act quickly.

Contact your local doctor if you want to get the flu shot. Influenza vaccination can be performed by any doctor though it's usually carried out at general medical practices.

Is weather a factor?

According to RKI estimates, the weather can indirectly influence how flu spreads. In very cold weather, people stay longer in closed rooms and dry heating air may make the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract more susceptible to infection.

Meanwhile, droplets coughed up by patients could float longer in dry room air in cold weather and therefore reach the respiratory mucous membranes of other people over slightly greater distances.

“However, other factors are certainly more important for the severity of a flu epidemic and the number of illnesses, such as the immunity in the population due to previous flu waves,” Buda added.

The surface structures of influenza viruses change from year to year, Tobias Welte, Director of the Department of Pneumology at Hanover Medical School, said.

That means the immune syste faces different challenges. The vaccine must also be adapted to the changed structures every year. One injection every 10 years, as with many other vaccines, is therefore not possible with influenza.

Scientists have long been pursuing the idea of finding other, more efficient approaches internationally, for example a universal vaccine against all influenza viruses.

Welte said that that idea was “a great dream”, but that a lot of work was still needed to make it come true.

Vocabulary

Flu – (die) Grippe

Flu wave/epidemic – (die) Grippewelle

Vaccination – (die) Impfung

Chronically ill people – (die) chronisch Kranken

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

 

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