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Schernewski, G., Jülich, W.-D.: Risk assessment of virus infections in the Oder estuary (southern Baltic) on the basis of spatial transport and virus decay simulations. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 203: 317-325, 2001.


The large Oder (Szczecin) Lagoon (687 km2) at the German-Polish border, close to the Baltic Sea, suffers from severe eutrophication and water quality problems due to high discharge of water, nutrients and pollutants by the river Oder. Sewage treatment around the lagoon has been very much improved during the last years, but large amounts of sewage still enter the Oder river. Human pathogenic viruses generally can be expected in all surface waters that are affected by municipal sewage. There is an increasing awareness that predisposed persons can be infected by a few infective units or even a single active virus. Another new aspect is, that at least polioviruses attached to suspended particles can be infective for weeks and therefore be transported over long distances. Therefore, the highest risk of virus inputs arise from the large amounts of untreated sewage of the city of Szczecin (Poland), which are released into the river Oder and transported to the lagoon and the Baltic Sea.

Summer tourism is the most important economical factor in this coastal region and further growth is expected. Human pathogenic viruses might be a serious problem for bathing water quality and sustainable summer tourism. The potential hazard of virus infections along beaches and shores of the Oder lagoon and adjacent parts of the Baltic Sea is evaluated on the basis of model simulations and laboratory results. We used two scenarios for the Oder Lagoon considering free viruses and viruses attached to suspended particle matter. The spatial impact of the average virus release in the city of Szczecin during summer (bathing period) was simulated with a hydrodynamic and particle tracking model.

Simulations suggest that due to fast inactivation, free viruses in the water represent a risk only in the river and near the river mouth. On the other hand, viruses attached to suspended matter can affect large areas of the eastern, Polish part of the lagoon (Grosses Haff). At the same time the accumulation of viruses on suspended particulate matter increases the likelihood of an infection after incorporation of such a particle. There is no evidence, that there is a risk of virus infections in the western part of the lagoon (Kleines Haff) or along the outer Baltic Sea coast.

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