Distribution of Usutu Virus in Germany and Its Effect on Breeding Bird Populations
Usutu virus (USUV) is an emerging mosquitoborne flavivirus with an increasing number of reports from several countries in Europe, where USUV infection has caused high avian mortality rates. However, 20 years after the first observed outbreak of USUV in Europe, there is still no reliable assessment of the large-scale impact of USUV outbreaks on bird populations. In this study, we identified the areas suitable for USUV circulation in Germany and analyzed the effects of USUV on breeding bird populations. We calculated the USUV-associated additional decline of common blackbird (Turdus merula) populations as 15.7% inside USUV-suitable areas but found no significant effect for the other 14 common bird species investigated. Our results show that the emergence of USUV is a further threat for birds in Europe and that the large-scale impact on population levels, at least for common blackbirds, must be considered.