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There is increasing evidence for the spread of West Nile virus (WNV) in southern, eastern and central Europe. In parallel, another flavivirus, the antigenically closely related Usutu virus, was introduced from Africa and first detected in Austria (2001), followed by Spain (2003), Hungary (2005), Italy (2006), Switzerland (2006) and Germany (2007). In Austria, human WNV infections have not previously been documented, although the virus was isolated from birds and detected in mosquitoes in 2008 and 2009. We therefore conducted a retrospective search for human cases of WNV infection using serum and cerebrospinal fluid samples collected from patients with central nervous system (CNS) disease in the summers of 2009, 2010 and 2011. Although all samples were negative for WNV by polymerase chain reaction, quantitative evaluation of standardised antibody assays with purified flavivirus antigens (including Usutu virus, which cross-reacts with WNV even in neutralisation assays) provided serological evidence for three autochthonous WNV infections in Austria: two in 2009 and one in 2010. Our data highlight the importance of raising awareness of WNV infections in Austria and neighbouring countries and suggest including testing for this infection in routine diagnostic practice of CNS diseases.


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