Since 7 July, eleven cases of West Nile virus have been reported to the Alpes Maritimes regional health agency (ARS). These are worrisome numbers considering the virus is spread easily by mosquitos.
The virus has shown to stronger and more widespread across Europe in 2018 compared with previous years, with Greece and Italy being hit the hardest.
The virus originates in infected birds and is spread to humans and horses by mosquitos, most notably the Culex mosquito which feasts at night. Humans are considered ‘accidental hosts’ as they can harbour the virus but not spread it.
The ARS has called on local health professionals and hospitals to be extra vigilant to the symptoms of the virus, which usually manifests like a normal fever accompanied by extreme headaches, muscle pain and sometimes skin break-outs. However, some people are a-symptomatic, meaning they don’t have any symptoms; and more rarely, some people experience neurological problems like swelling around the brain. The majority of people recover easily without complication, but some more vulnerable people such as immune-supressed or the elderly can succumb to the fever.
The best way to avoid the virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Officials recommend preventing the proliferation of mosquitos by being vigilant against stagnant pools of water in or near your home. This includes areas around trees that remain moist, standing puddles and water fountains. Reservoirs should be covered with tissue or mosquito nets. Wear loose-fitting clothes that cover your exposed skin, and use repellents on both your clothes and bare skin.
Anyone who has suspicion of infection should contact their doctor immediately.