A 77-year-old resident of La Puebla del Río on Thursday became the first victim of an outbreak of West Nile virus in the southern Spanish province of Seville, after succumbing to meningoencephalitis. According to Spanish TV network Telecinco and family sources who confirmed the news to news agency EFE, the patient had been in intensive care in the Virgen del Rocío hospital in the Andalusian capital. On Friday, an 85-year-old woman in Seville became the second person to die from the virus.
A total of 38 people have so far been infected during the biggest West Nile outbreak ever detected in Andalusia, and which has affected the areas of Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río, both located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. Of these, 23 people have been hospitalized, with seven of the patients in intensive care, according to the regional health department. The average age of those infected in the outbreak is 60, and 71% of the victims are men.
The virus, which is transmitted by the common Culex mosquito, causes a death rate of 0.1% among those infected
The virus has been spread by mosquitos, which are common in the area given the proximity to the river. The insect numbers have grown by 30% this year compared to 2019 due to the intense rainfall registered in spring, according to data from the Doñana Biological Station. The virus travels thanks to migratory birds, which are bitten by mosquitos, who then transmit it to horses and humans via new bites.
The virus, which is transmitted by the common Culex mosquito, causes a death rate of 0.1% among those infected, inflammation of the meninges and the brain (meningoencephalitis) among 1%, and a controllable fever among 20%. In 80% of cases, the virus is asymptomatic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Repellents, nets and fumigations
In response to the outbreak, the Andalusian health department last week recommended that the 42,000 residents of the areas in question take measures to avoid mosquitoes, such as the use of repellents and nets, and activated a special protocol, which includes fumigations.
The affected area has recently falling victim to a long list of calamities. Last year, Seville was the site of the largest listeria outbreak in Spain’s history, with 222 cases, three deaths and seven miscarriages. In January, residents of Coria del Río discovered that the municipal sewage system was releasing toxic gasses that were harmful to human health. In mid-March, the area – like the rest of Spain – was placed under a strict lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, and now the West Nile virus is threatening to destroy the local economy just as it was starting to recover from the confinement measures.
English version by Simon Hunter.