Health News

Squirrel Virus May Have Killed Three Humans

squirrel virus

A common summer sight in any park throughout the country is that of children and their parents feeding the squirrels. Such a happy pastime may now be shrouded in controversy after three German squirrel breeders died earlier this year due to brain inflammation, believed to be linked to a mutated bornovirus typically linked to pigs, rodents, horses and birds.

The virus is unable to jump from human to human and scientists believe that the squirrels passed on the virus to their human handlers. UPI reports that the men died of encephalitis within two to four months of displaying symptoms including chills, fever, confusion and difficulty walking. Encephalitis is known to cause the brain to swell however testing proved inconclusive in revealing exactly what led to the swelling.

Two of the three men had been scratched or bitten by the squirrels in their keep, known as variegated squirrels that hail from Central America and Southern Mexico. Researchers have previously claimed that such viruses were unable to spread to humans but further investigations casts doubt on such findings.

The three victims, aged between 60 and 70, were close friends who bred and raised squirrels which went on to be sold as exotic pets. After two of the men were bitten and scratched by the squirrels, all three men developed encephalitis and fell into comas which proved fatal.

Popular Science reports that doctors were perplexed by the fatalities as conducted tests for typical causes of encephalitis came back negative. One of the squirrels was tested and found to contain a virus named VSBV-1, also located within the bodies of one of the German casualties.

Researchers explain that the results are not “definitive proof” that the squirrels caused the virus but the findings do raise questions.

Dr. Marc Siegel, professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center raises concerns that the virus “could spread to squirrels here in the U.S.” but that there would not be a “sustained spread.”

It is possible that this virus could spread to squirrels here in the U.S. and occasionally to humans, but we wouldn’t see sustained spread, as there is no evidence of spread from human to human.

European Public Health Officials encourage people to avoid feeding or touching squirrels as a preventative measure.

Click to comment
To Top

Hi - We Would Love To Keep In Touch

If you liked this article then please consider joing our mailing list to receive the latest news, updates and opportunities from our team.

We don't want an impostor using your email address so please look for an email from us and click the link to confirm your email address.