Warning over deadly virus that could spread from Africa to Europe in 48 hours

West Nile Virus: Expert explains how the virus is transmitted

A professor has warned that a deadly virus “can pass from North Africa to Ibiza in 48 hours due to the strong air currents that carry mosquitoes”.

Known as West Nile Virus (WNV), the disease is spread by mosquitoes in many countries but not in the UK, the NHS explains.

While most people who catch the virus don’t feel sick, about one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes even fatal illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

Luis Enjuanes, doctor and research professor at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), pointed out that the virus could quickly travel to other countries through air currents at a conference titled “Understanding viruses and preparing for future health challenges” earlier in August.

The expert highlighted the influence of climate change on the spread of viral diseases such as WNV.

READ MORE Climate change to worsen disease as new viruses could arrive in UK

Furthermore, the virus has already appeared in three villages in Seville, a newspaper Diario de Ibiza reported on August 1 2023.

Notably, WNV caused an outbreak in Spain back in 2020, causing some people to die.

Now, the alarm has been raised again as the disease has been detected in mosquitoes captured in Guillena, El Castillo de las Guardas and La Puebla del Río.

The detection was traced in the trapping network, which has seven stations in the province of Seville, according to The Directorate General of Public Health and Pharmaceutical Management of the Andalusian Regional Government.

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WNV is most commonly spread to people through a bite of an infected mosquito. 

The insects contract the virus when they feed on infected birds and can then spread it to people and other animals by biting them, the CDC explains.

The type of mosquito in which the virus was detected is most likely to bite at dawn and dusk, the newspaper noted.

Therefore, Spanish experts recommended taking simple preventative measures, including:

  • Wearing appropriate clothing (light colours that cover most of the skin)
  • Not using strong colognes or perfumes
  • Using registered repellents.

The good news is that a majority of people who become infected with WNV are completely asymptomatic.

If warning signs do appear, they can include the following:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Skin rash 
  • Feeling sick
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Fits (seizures).

While most people usually recover within a few days, about less than one percent of those infected develop neurological problems, including encephalitis and meningitis.

Worryingly, neurological disease can prove fatal, according to the World Health Organisation.

The NHS recommends getting medical advice if you spot symptoms of WNV.

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