Mosquito Virus Unchecked, Greece's West Nile Death Toll 25


(Photo by Eurokinissi/Vasilis Papadopoulos, file)

ATHENS – In a sign that the illness hasn't abated yet, the death toll in Greece from the mosquito-carried West Nile virus that began in June has grown to 25, the National Health Organization (EODY) said in a report.

Through Sept. 19, authorities had diagnosed 195 cases of the virus. Of these, 121 developed illnesses affecting the central nervous system such as encephalitis or meningitis.

EODY again urged the public to put insect repellent on bare skin and clothing,  install mosquito nets and screens, to remove stagnant water from basins, vases and gutters, regularly mow lawns and to water plants in the morning.

Earlier in August,  the Athens Medical Association (ISA) joined in warning the public to take simple precautions ranging from using repellent to wearing clothes that cover the skin – in the middle of summer.

ISA also advised the use of mosquito nets, fans or air conditioners and yellow bug lights but it wasn’t said if it also recommended electric zappers that kill the insects or citronella. Other measures include checking that there is no standing water sitting around in basins, jars, pots and gutters, as well as mowing lawns, trimming shrubs and clearing dead leaves. Plants and gardens, it added, should be watered in the morning rather than later in the day.

“There have been enough cases to know that this is now a public health issue,” Danai Pervanidou who heads the office for vector-borne diseases at the national organisation for public health (KEELPNO) told the British newspaper The Guardian’s correspondent Helena Smith in June.

“The virus has established itself in Greece through migratory birds and we are recommending that everyone takes personal protective measures such as wearing long sleeves, avoiding places with stagnant water and using mosquito nets and repellent,” she said.

In a transmission season that began unusually early, laboratory diagnosed cases were reported in both rural and urban areas, according to KEELPNO. Many of those who contract the virus after being bitten won’t show any symptoms.