ATHENS – Despite Health Minister Andreas Xanthos downplaying the danger, 16 people have died in Greece after contracting the West Nile virus from mosquitoes, with 133 cases reported and more expected.
“Unfortunately, the spread of the virus is quite broad and incidents have been detected in many municipalities, mainly in Attica and Central Macedonia,” Danai Pervanidou, head of the Unit for Vector-borne Diseases, from the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (KEELPNO) told the state-run AMNA news agency.
The virus struck early, with heavier rains than usual, followed by soaring temperatures that became breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“We are now at the peak of cases, from mid-August to mid-September, but we will see other incidents in early October,” Pervanidou said, recommending people protect themselves, such as wearing clothes that cover as much skin as possible and using repellants.
The infection is transmitted by mosquitoes, with symptoms including fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, nausea and vomiting, as well as skin rashes and swollen lymph glands.
Most people (80 percent) who contract the virus will show no symptoms, while a fifth will develop a viral infection and one percent encephalitis or meningitis, and these are mainly the elderly and those with underlying conditions. All of the victims have been aged over 70.