West Nile Virus reported in several European countries

Laboratory-confirmed cases of the West Nile virus have recently been reported by the World Health Organization in several European countries.

Between the beginning of July and mid-August, at least three countries in Europe, as well as Russia, have reported cases of the mosquito borne infection, according to the WHO.

Greece saw 22 cases of infection during this period, Albania had two cases, and Romania reported one case. Russia reported a total of 11 cases.

The WHO attributes the increase in the number cases to in part to a higher awareness among healthcare workers of West Nile symptoms and enhanced laboratory capacity. High temperatures and increased rainfall in the region have also led to a substantial increase in the mosquito population.

Member states in the affected region are being encouraged to implement public health measures to limit the potential for a large scale outbreak. The WHO suggests that efforts to prevent the transmission of West Nile Virus should focus primarily on personal and community protection from mosquito bites.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Network for Diagnostics of “Imported” Viral Diseases, and the Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries are monitoring the situation, according to the WHO.

West Nile Virus is often asymptomatic or considered mildly febrile. Only approximately 20 percent of those infected with the virus will develop West Nile fever. About one in 150 will develop neuro-invasive diseases, such as meningitis or encephalitis. There is currently no vaccine against West Nile Virus.