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Spain has seen another death caused by West Nile virus – also known as Nile fever. The virus has spread to a total of three hotspots so far. The latest victim was a 59-year-old man, the youngest so far, who died in hospital.
He lived in Cádiz, a port town in the Andalusia region.
An 87-year-old woman also died in the municipality where there are five suspected cases of the virus.
It brings the total number to 55 in Andalusia as a whole.
Of these, half have been confirmed as Nile fever which can produce horrendous symptoms and is likened meningitis. Confirmation tests are awaited on the others.
The outbreak started in mid-August in the riverside towns of Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río and then spread to parts of Seville city 25 miles away.
It has now jumped another 65 miles to the coastal resort of Cádiz.
Surveys are being carried out in Cádiz to see which areas have been hit.
The 59-year-old man who has recently died lived in Vejer de la Frontera where the mayor Franciso Manuel Flor has declared a day of official mourning.
He took to Twitter to say it was a terrible blow for the family and for the town.
Health chiefs say it is one of the country’s worst outbreaks of Nile fever and drones have taken to the air in Seville to disinfect regions where the transmitting mosquito is breeding.
Animals have also been affected, including birds and horses.
Two birds are reported to have died in zoological gardens in Cádiz whilst the infected horses are in the same region.
The regional government of Andalusia is spending nearly £100,000 on preventative measures.
An army of tractors has already been treating the riverside towns of Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río, as well as parts of Seville, and Cádiz is expected to do the same following the two deaths.
The outbreak has been described as “an extraordinary situation” and there are real fears it could spread to yet more parts of Spain and even to the holiday islands.
The action plan is to be repeated each year in a bid to stop further outbreaks amid allegations that the municipalities should have been properly warned about the dangers of Nile fever which produces meningitis in its most severe form.
The three other people who have died come from Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río and were aged in their 70s and 80s.
In Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río, there has been massive de-fumigation of sports facilities, roads, squares, parks and river beds, with residents being urged to take all health precautions, including staying indoors between dusk and dawn, using insect repellant and mosquito nets, turning off lights and keeping all their homes clean, including swimming pools.
Nile virus is generally transmitted by mosquitoes that bite birds, which carry the virus and deposit it in both humans and horses.
A significant number of people do not have symptoms but it can lead to serious health problems and death. A number of horses in the area have been tested positive for Nile fever.
According to data provided by the WHO, 20 percent of those who become infected suffer symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, body pain, nausea and to a lesser extent, skin rashes or enlarged lymph nodes. In its worst version, it can cause a neuroinvasive disease such as encephalitis, meninigitis or poliomyelitis.
WHO assures that it occurs only in one of every 150 cases and that it can happen in people of any age although those over 50 years of age and people with immune problems are at higher risk.
This outbreak of the Nile virus is the largest that has been recorded in Andalusia and is attributed to the 30 percent increase in mosquitoes in the wetlands of the Doñana National Park and the Guadalquivir river.
Additional reporting by Rita Sobot
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