Global warming causes the spread of West Nile Virus in Europe, Israel and other
regions, according to a new study conducted at the University of Haifa for the
European Center for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm, which was
released on Sunday.
The Israeli research team was chosen by the European
Center, which belongs to the European Union, to lead the research.
Nile Virus, spread by mosquitoes that bite infected birds and can affect man,
killed 10 Israelis and infected over 120 others several years ago, but has not
caused fatalities here since. It is now considered to be endemic in Africa,
Asia, Australia, parts of the Middle East, Europe and in the US, which in 2012
went though one of its worst outbreaks.
Higher temperatures around the
world have a major influence on the spread of the disease in Europe and other
neighboring areas, according to University of Haifa researcher Dr. Shulamit Paz,
who headed the team that just published its study in PLoS One. She said the
evidence on how warmer weather influences the spread of West Nile virus is
becoming more clear all the time.
The infection can cause irreversible
brain damage through encephalitis or meningitis in humans, and the elderly and
people with weak immune systems are most susceptible.
The Haifa team said
that humidity, in addition to warm weather, was involved in increasing mosquito
populations in Europe, neighboring countries and Israel, along with the rest of
the Middle East. “We used statistical tools and found that as a result of heat
waves, a dramatic increase in the number of cases resulted from increased
activity of the virus and a growth of the mosquito population,” Paz
The researcher is now conducting a continuing study on the subject
for the European Center for Disease Prevention ad Control and the French
research center, CIRAD, with the aim of looking for additional influences on the
spread of the disease. Paz hopes their findings will make it possible to develop
a model for better predicting the effects of the virus in Europe. If this
occurs, the European Center will be better able to advise countries on preparing
for the disease and even to moderate outbreaks, she said.
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!