West Nile virus claims second Israeli life

The two deaths bring the toll of the most recent West Nile virus outbreak to 68 reported cases, including a teenager in critical condition.

August 23, 2018 23:56
2 minute read.
West Nile virus claims second Israeli life

west nile virus 88. (photo credit: )


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A second person was reported dead by the Health Ministry on Thursday from a recent outbreak of the malignant West Nile virus.

The second casualty of the dangerous disease was an 85-year-old man who had been dealing with another unidentified illness. His identity and where he passed away were not revealed.

The first casualty was a 76-year-old man who passed away three weeks ago in Assuta Hospital in Ashdod, according to media reports.

The two deaths bring the toll of the most recent West Nile virus outbreak to 68 reported cases, including a teenager in critical condition. Fourteen patients are seriously ill.

In the statement, the ministry said most of the patients who have difficult cases of the virus are elderly and had other health ailments beforehand.

The ministry noted that “in Europe too, many cases are reported,” saying that Italy has faced 123 cases this year with three deaths, and Serbia has faced 126 cases with 11 deaths.

Official data published Tuesday revealed the number of patients infected, indicating that the disease is spreading.

Speaking on Galatz Army Radio after news of the second death broke, Prof. Michal Paul, the director of the Infectious Diseases Institute at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, urged authorities to “deal with the reservoirs where mosquitoes live, and we humans have to protect ourselves from the stings... People who get the disease do not even know it because in most cases it does not have any symptoms,” she said.

The West Nile virus is commonly hosted by birds, and is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites. While the Ministry of Health website notes symptoms can include fevers, headaches, and muscle pain, the virus rarely results in death. No vaccine currently exists to protect against infection.

In Israel, the virus mainly appears from mid-August to mid-October.

The Environmental Protection Ministry has issued repeated warnings concerning the areas where the virus is found. In a release at the beginning of the week, the Ministry said infected mosquitoes were discovered in Caesarea, Binyamina and the Gezer region. The virus  has been most prevalent in northern areas of the country this summer.

In the statement, senior deputy director general for natural resources, Alon Zask, said that the Ministry has been keeping the local authorities in each infected area informed, and that “the Ministry conducts increased surveillance [in those areas], in order to minimize the likelihood of transmission of the virus to humans.”

The Health Ministry has listed guidelines for protecting oneself from becoming infected, include the use of screen windows, fans, mosquito nets, and long clothing.

According to the PLoS ONE  journal (Public Library of Science) from mid-2017, Israel’s largest-ever West Nile virus outbreak occurred in 2000, where 400 people were reported infected and around 40 died.

A report by the Ministry of Health in December 2017 said that 40 cases were reported in Israel during that year.

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