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Viruses

We cannot only become infected by viruses through direct contact but also through foods. BfR examines and assesses the risks of viral infections following the consumption of different foods. In this connection BfR hosts the National Reference Laboratory for Foodborne Viruses.

What are viruses?

Viruses are the smallest pathogens which cause infections. They only consist of genetic material which is surrounded by a protective envelope of fats and/or protein.

As opposed to bacteria, viruses have no own metabolism and cannot multiply themselves. They need the cell of a living organism, the so-called host.

Overview of some viruses

Noroviruses cause gastro-intestinal diseases in all age groups which are characterised by vomiting and diarrhoea. They are highly infectious and can be transmitted both directly from human to human and indirectly through contaminated surfaces or foods.

Rotaviruses are pathogens which cause diarrhoea. Mainly infants can have very severe courses of disease. Outbreaks frequently occur in day care centres. The virus is easily transmitted from human to human but also through contaminated foods.

Hepatitis A viruses cause acute inflammations of the liver (hepatitis). Their transmission is either directly from humans to humans or indirectly with contaminated foods serving as transmission vehicle. Many hepatitis A diseases in Germany are contracted abroad. Only four weeks after the infection the first symptoms appear.

The comparatively rare disease caused by hepatitis E viruses is very similar to hepatitis A. The virus is found in countries with a low hygiene standard in contaminated drinking water or foods but also in pigs and wild boar in central Europe, including Germany. The possibility of transmission from food made of them, which is insufficiently heated before consumption, is discussed.

The influenza A virus H5N1 – also known as "bird flu" – can cause severe general diseases and pneumonia in humans. It originates from infected poultry and can be transmitted through close contact with the latter in individual cases to humans. Transmissions via foods do not seem to play a role.

The disease caused by the influenza A virus H1N1 – referred to as "swine flu" – has a slightly milder course. In most cases it causes a moderately developing general disease in humans affecting the respiratory tract. It is easily transmitted between humans by droplet infection. An involvement of foods at the transmission of this virus is so far not known. 

Legal basis

Decision 99/131/EC and Regulation (EC) 882/2004.

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Information

 (1)
Date Title Size
14.12.2015
BfR Information Nr. 047/2015
Wearing gloves when eviscerating animals protects hunters from hepatitis E 22.8 KB
PDF-File

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Opinion

 (3)
Date Title Size
19.09.2019
BfR Opinion No 014/2019 of 18 April 2019, updated on
New pathogens in beef and cow’s milk products: More research required 81.5 KB
PDF-File
06.10.2012
BfR Opinion No. 038/2012
Tenacity (resistance) of noroviruses in strawberry compote 75.1 KB
PDF-File
22.02.2012
BfR Opinion No. 009/2012
Schmallenberg virus: Infection through food unlikely 28.7 KB
PDF-File

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Press releases

 (18)
Date Title Keywords
26.06.2020
23/2020
A quarter say they use the Corona-Warn-App COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
15.06.2020
22/2020
Coronavirus: The majority is not worried, but still cautious COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
05.06.2020
20/2020
Keep diarrhoea and jaundice at bay food safety , hepatitis A , hepatitis E , noroviruses , rotavirus, viruses
29.05.2020
18/2020
The risk of coronavirus is still taken seriously COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
15.05.2020
16/2020
Coronavirus infection: Perceived safety grows COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
07.05.2020
15/2020
Coronavirus pandemic: Increased desire for social contacts COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
30.04.2020
14/2020
Coronavirus: health and economic concerns COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
24.04.2020
12/2020
Mandatory wearing of masks finds broad approval COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
17.04.2020
11/2020
Fear of coronavirus declines COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
09.04.2020
10/2020
Coronavirus pandemic: risk awareness is higher in old age COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
03.04.2020
08/2020
More people protect themselves from coronavirus COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
27.03.2020
07/2020
Infection with the coronavirus: Most feared are other people - and door handles COVID-19/corona, food safety , viruses
06.11.2018
38/2018
Caution, tasteless! Viruses and antimicrobially resistant bacteria in foods research , viruses
14.12.2015
38/2015
Wearing gloves when eviscerating game protects hunters against hepatitis E food infection , hepatitis E , zoonoses
16.12.2013
33/2013
Invisible enemies - tips to ensure that viruses don’t spoil your appetite food hygiene , food infection , food safety , viruses
23.11.2012
40/2012
Pathogens in food: Progress and new challenges for zoonosis control food safety , noroviruses , salmonella , zoonoses
08.10.2012
32/2012
Outbreak of acute vomiting with diarrhoea in children and youths over, cause identified food safety , noroviruses
05.10.2012
31/2012
A batch of deep-frozen strawberries is probably the cause of a major outbreak of acute vomiting with diarrhoea in children and young adults in the eastern federal states food safety , noroviruses

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