SPANISH NEWS

West Nile virus outbreak in southern Spain claims fourth victim

The mosquito-borne disease has spread to Cádiz province, where three patients have been hospitalized and one admitted to intensive care

Fumigation in Coria del Río by the local council in a bid to stop the spread of the West Nile virus.
Fumigation in Coria del Río by the local council in a bid to stop the spread of the West Nile virus.José Manuel Vidal / EFE

The West Nile virus outbreak continues to claim lives in southern Spain. The latest victim is an 87-year-old woman who died after succumbing to meningoencephalitis at Puerto Real hospital in Cádiz province. She is the fourth person to die from the virus in the region of Andalusia, and the first victim reported in Cádiz, where five cases have been confirmed, including three patients who have been hospitalized and one who is in intensive care.

The West Nile virus, which is mostly spread 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%.

Although the West Nile virus outbreak appears to have stabilized, experts warn that it could continue to cause more fatalities

Last week, transmission of the virus began to be detected in Cádiz, with three patients admitted to Puerto Real hospital from different areas in the province. Until recently, all cases had been recorded in Seville province in municipalities on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, where mosquitoes are commonly found. In Seville there are 24 cases of the virus, with seven patients in hospital and three in intensive care.

The presence of the West Nile virus in Cádiz was the topic of the first videoconference between the government delegation in the province and local mayors in the area. At the remote meeting on Monday, authorities agreed to establish two risk zones, one situated in the municipal area of Puerto Real and another in the triangle formed by the towns of Alcalá de los Gazules, Benalup-Casas Viejas and Medina Sidonia, and with the bordering municipalities of Vejer, Conil and Barbate, where the environmental conditions are favorable to mosquito larvae.

The next step will be to inform the public of what measures should be taken to prevent mosquito bites. Authorities will then move to eliminate the adult mosquito population and to control the insect’s larvae.

Up until recently, all cases had been recorded in Seville province

This second phase of the plan was launched on September 7 in Seville province, with drones used to fumigate the marshes and rice fields on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. The initiative was carried out by the Andalusian regional government, which fast-tracked a €100,000 contract to complete the fumigation work. At the beginning of the outbreak, the regional government was reluctant to assume responsibility for the disinfection work, despite calls from several mayors of the affected areas, such as Coria and Puebla del Río. At their insistence, the Andalusian government agreed not only to take charge of the fumigation work this year, but also in the coming years, according to the action plan to control the mosquito population that was presented by the regional health department early this month.

Although the West Nile virus outbreak appears to have stabilized, experts warn that it could continue to cause more fatalities.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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