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The potentially-deadly disease has so far claimed two lives and seen 20 people admitted to hospital with seven being treated in intensive care. The fatalities in Seville were an 85-year-old woman and a 77-year-old man.
It would be possible to devise a vaccine already having this precedent
Dr Pablo Barreiro
This outbreak is reportedly the largest recorded in Andalusia following the increase of mosquitoes in the region, the primary source of transmission.
And it comes as Spain continues to battle a resurgence in coronavirus infections.
Since coming out of a strict lockdown at the end of June, transmission of COVID-19 has rebounded fast.
The health ministry diagnosed 3,594 new infections yesterday and has logged nearly 83,000 in the past two weeks.
Nearly 29,000 people have died since the onset of the pandemic.
Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine expert Dr Pablo Barreiro said the rest of Spain should now also be on high alert for West Nile virus and warned the disease could spread throughout the entire country “especially in the warmer months”.
He urged health chiefs to take steps to prevent the spread of the virus, which is transmitted by the bite of the Culex mosquito.
Dr Barreiro said: “This virus belongs to the Yellow Fever family, for which there is already a vaccine, so it would be possible to devise a vaccine already having this precedent.
“Another prevention method would be based simply on avoiding mosquito bites with the use of repellents every six or eight hours.”
West Nile virus poses the greatest risk for older people or people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, or those who require immunosuppressive medication.
Complications can lead to meningitis among younger sufferers.
Dr Barreiro said in most cases the main symptoms were similar to the flu: muscular aches, fever and headache and said some patients could be asymptomatic.
He said: “Only between 2 percent and 5 percent of cases present symptoms.
“It is a disease that goes unnoticed very easily but its complications can lead to severe situations.
“Of the cases diagnosed with symptoms, half could already have a complication of brain inflammation or encephalitis.”
Although those over 50 are more at risk of the virus, the World Health Organisation said the virus can be transmitted to anyone of any age.
Fears of an outbreak of the West Nile virus – as well as dengue fever and chikungunya – were raised after a new species of mosquito was spotted.
Aedes japonicus originally comes from Japan, Korea, China and Russia.
It is believed the insect arrived in Spain through the trading of used tyres which come from these countries.
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.
They can survive in cold climates and can easily establish itself in livestock.
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Rosa Cano Portero, a member of the Public Health Surveillance Group of Spanish Society of Epidemiology and epidemiologist Beatriz Fernández Martínez, said: “It is believed that climate change may favour its expansion to new areas further north.
“The regions where there is more risk are those that have had tiger mosquitoes established for the longest time and have large movements of people.
“In the regions, Public Health Services establish appropriate plans that are activated during the season of the vector and that usually coincides with that of the largest tourist movements.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
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