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From monkeypox to Zika: these zoonotic diseases have occurred so far

From monkeypox to Zika: these zoonotic diseases have occurred so far

Influenza (“real flu”)

Waterfowl act as a reservoir for viruses. In 2003, a new H5N1 “bird flu” strain spread in China. Domestic poultry acted as an intermediate host for the transmission to humans. Recurrent H5N1 outbreaks have claimed more than 400 lives so far. Unlike ‘bird flu’, ‘new influenza’ (H1N1) can be transmitted between humans with relative ease. The type of influenza, named “swine flu” after the intermediate host, caused a global pandemic in Mexico in 2009/10 with around 200,000 deaths.


Bats are a reservoir of viruses for disease, which is particularly feared due to the high mortality rate of up to 90 percent. Monkeys are assumed to be intermediate hosts. The last major outbreak occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016. It is estimated that more than 28,000 people contracted the disease at that time. A total of 11,316 deaths were recorded. Also this year, there was an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The causative agent of “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome” (SARS), which is 80 percent identical to the new coronavirus, first appeared in China in 2002. Of the approximately 8,000 people infected by 2003, 800 died. The rotating caterpillars operate , a species of civet native to Asia, served as a transmitter between bats and humans.

Middle East respiratory syndrome

So far, about 2,500 people have been infected with the “Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus” (MERS-CoV) that emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. With 858 deaths, the mortality rate here is relatively high. Like other coronaviruses that infect humans, bats are the origin. The camel acts as an intermediate host.

West Nile fever

Mainly due to higher average temperatures, the West Nile virus reached Europe at the turn of the new millennium. Austria is currently located on the northern edge of its distribution areas. AGES describes the probability of infection in Austria as “still very low”. It is transmitted by mosquitoes, and wild birds have been identified as intermediate hosts. Serious complications occur in 1 percent of cases.


Outbreaks of the disease have been recorded frequently since 2005, including in Italy. The main vectors are the mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Primates and (putative) rodents have been identified as intermediate hosts.

dengue fever

With outbreaks in France and Croatia since 2010, dengue fever has also reached Europe. Here, too, primates are intermediate hosts, with the main vectors again being the mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. According to AGES, between 30 and 120 dengue virus infections are detected in Germany each year, all of which have so far been detected in travelers returning from endemic areas.


Zika virus is also spread mainly by these two types of mosquitoes. Since 2015, the disease has spread especially in Latin America. If a pregnant woman becomes infected, this can have serious long-term consequences for the baby.