Emergence of Usutu virus, an African mosquito-borne flavivirus of the Japanese encephalitis virus group, central Europe

Emerg Infect Dis. 2002 Jul;8(7):652-6. doi: 10.3201/eid0807.020094.


During late summer 2001 in Austria, a series of deaths in several species of birds occurred, similar to the beginning of the West Nile virus (WNV) epidemic in the United States. We necropsied the dead birds and examined them by various methods; pathologic and immunohistologic investigations suggested a WNV infection. Subsequently, the virus was isolated, identified, partially sequenced, and subjected to phylogenetic analysis. The isolates exhibited 97% identity to Usutu virus (USUV), a mosquito-borne Flavivirus of the Japanese encephalitis virus group; USUV has never previously been observed outside Africa nor associated with fatal disease in animals or humans. If established in central Europe, this virus may have considerable effects on avian populations; whether USUV has the potential to cause severe human disease is unknown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Animals
  • Austria
  • Base Sequence
  • Bird Diseases / pathology
  • Bird Diseases / virology*
  • Birds / virology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / pathology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / virology
  • Culicidae / virology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Encephalitis Viruses, Japanese / classification*
  • Encephalitis Viruses, Japanese / isolation & purification*
  • Insect Vectors / virology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction