West Nile fever – What is it? Where did it come from? Should we be worried?

SINCE the West Nile fever outbreak was reported in the province of Seville, two deaths have already been recorded, cases have increased, and the first infections have occurred in the capital.

The concern, and the questions, are growing among the residents of the towns with neighbours who have been infected and also in other parts of the country.

 Where does it come from?

The first time this virus was isolated was in 1937, in Uganda. In Spain, the virus was detected in 2010, also in Andalucia. Several horses and two people were identified as having contracted the Nile virus.

How is it transmitted?

About 150 types of birds are known to be the hosts of this virus and some families of mosquitoes.

The mode of transmission is simple: a mosquito bites an infected bird and then bites a human. 

What are the symptoms of an infected person?

It is estimated that around 20 per cent of people who contract this virus develop symptoms, from fever to headaches to generalised fatigue, vomiting or diarrhoea. Less than 1 per cent of those infected develop meningoencephalitis, the most serious possible condition associated with this virus. These cases usually develop in people with a suppressed immune system or elderly people. The two fatalities registered in Spain were 77 and 83 years old.

Is there a vaccine?

Some effective treatment has already been synthesised for animals, but not for humans.

Can it spread throughout Spain?

It is not known with full certainty, but the mosquitoes of the Culex family are the main suspects in causing outbreaks of West Nile fever. This type of mosquito is present throughout Spain … and at any point, it can bite an infected bird and, later, a person.

However, virologist Noelia López points out that outbreaks are usually limited to the points where mosquitoes lay their eggs. “It would not be expected that the mosquitoes were distributed beyond the area in which they live, they do not cross great distances,” says the expert.

Therefore, without transmission between humans, local outbreaks could still be expected.

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Written by

Charlie Loran

Manchester born mummy with a two year old diva (2020), living on the Costa del Sol for just short of a decade.
Former chef and restaurateur, holistic health fanatic and lover of long words.

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