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As Spain continues to fight against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, fears of a new outbreak have been raised by scientists after cases of the deadly West Nile virus soared in Andalusia.
The Councillor of Health and Families of the Junta de Andalucia, Jesús Aguirre, confirmed 11 of the 19 confirmed cases of meningoencephalitis also tested positive for the West Nile virus.
This figure has since risen to 12 following a statement from the General Directorate of Public Health and Pharmaceutical Management.
Samples from patients who tested positive were sent to the Andalusian Centre of Virology.
Once these results were known, protocols were initiated including fumigating the affected areas.
Mr Aguirre said 80 percent of people infected were usually asymptomatic but the other 20 percent all suffered from a fever but said it was “perfectly manageable”.
Just one percent of patients who suffer from meningoencephalitis with 0.1 percent fatality rate.
Mr Aguirre also confirmed out of the eleven patients admitted to hospital, two have since been moved to ICU while seven are in intensive care.
One of the patients is a 70-year-old man who was admitted after he was suffering from a high fever and severe headache.
His son told ABC his father is “very sick, they have told us that he has encephalitis and we see that things are not looking good, although we must be positive and never lose hope”.
West Nile virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, mostly species of Culex.
Fears of an outbreak of this new virus comes after a new species of mosquito was spotted in the country.
It is believed the insect arrived in Spain from Japan, Korea, China and Russia through the trading of used tyres which come from these countries.
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But the Association of Pest Control Companies of Catalonia (ADEPAP) has warned the new species has already been spotted in northern Spain.
So far, there have been reports of the bug in Asturias and Cantabria but ADEPAP warns it is not ruled out to be in Galicia and areas of Catalonia.
Unlike the tiger mosquito, this species can carry infectious viruses such as dengue, chikungunya and the West Nile virus.
Most people (eight out of 10) infected with the West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms.
About one in five people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, or rash.
Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
Sadly, one in 150 people who are infected develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis.
This threat comes as Spain has witnessed a catastrophic number of coronavirus cases.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Spain has recorded more than 300,000 cases with deaths exceeding 28,000.
Last month, cities and areas across Spain, including Madrid and Barcelona, introduced new lockdown measures as new cases began to rise.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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