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Already 71 dead by West Nile fever in Europe

Meningitis, fever and rash: These are the symptoms of the potentially fatal disease. About 800 cases were registered in the EU.

Health authorities have registered nearly 800 cases of West Nile fever in humans in the European Union this year. At least 71 deaths have been reported across Europe, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Thus, the virus disease killed 26 people in Serbia, 13 in Italy, 12 in Romania and one each in Hungary and Kosovo. For Greece, 18 dead were named, while the Greek Ministry of Health spoke of 21 dead.

Within the EU, according to ECDC, the largest number of infections so far has been reported in Italy with 327 cases. In France, 16 cases have been reported so far, in Austria 10. In a total of five regions of France and Croatia, infections of people with the West Nile virus have become known for the first time this year, it goes on to say.

West Nile virus also detected in Germany
For the first time in Germany, the West Nile virus (WNV) has been found in a bird. The pathogen of West Nile fever was detected in a bearded owl in Halle (Saale), as the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) announced. In Germany, the disease is very rare in humans, so far all those affected had been infected abroad.

 The little owl was found dead in his aviary in the Halle Zoo in mid-August, according to the FLI. The West Nile virus mainly infects birds, but it can also be transmitted by mosquitoes to other hosts such as horses and humans. How the pathogen got to Halle will now be shown in detail. It also checks whether mosquitoes in the area carry the virus.

Experts recommend insect repellent
Most sufferers have no or only harmless symptoms such as headache and body aches – and therefore do not go to the doctor. Residents of affected areas were advised in the Greek state radio to use vaporizers or other means against insects.

The wave of infection affects mainly the north and parts of Sardinia in Italy. In Greece, most cases were recorded on the Peloponnese peninsula and around Athens and Thessaloniki. In Serbia, especially the capital Belgrade is affected.

In general, the West Nile virus in about one in every 100 infections leads to a severe disease course affecting the brain, explains RKI expert Stark. Some of these diseases are deadly.

Symptoms include fever and rash
Typical symptoms of West Nile fever include muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and fever. In about one out of every 100 infections, there is a serious brain disease, explains Stark. Some of these diseases are deadly.

According to the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, dead wild birds have been found throughout Germany for several weeks – mostly dead on the Usutu virus. The West Nile virus is closely related to this pathogen. Wild bird specimens sent to the National Reference Laboratory for West Nile Virus Infections at the FLI are always screened for both viruses.

In birds, infection with the West Nile virus usually remains asymptomatic, explains the institute. However, a number of bird species are susceptible to the pathogen, so that it could lead to massive epidemics with deaths.

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