The West Nile virus was first discovered in Germany after years of warming climate that researchers think encouraged moving further north to the mosquitoes carrying the lethal disease. On Friday, health officials announced the first known human case of the mosquito-borne virus in the nation.
Most of those bitten by virus-bearing mosquitoes do not have symptoms, but about one in five develop fever and other flu-like conditions. Less than 1% then develop more severe neurological complications, including encephalitis or meningitis, which can be deadly.
Over the past few years, there has been a steep increase in instances in southern Europe, with at least 1300 instances and 90 fatalities in 2018 compared to less than 300 in the past year. Experts think that the increase is the consequence of hotter summers in Europe, which encourage mosquitoes to grow more and become more vigorous.
In Greece, where there have been 316 transmissions as well as 50 deaths in 2018, the issue has become acute enough that the UK Foreign Office took the precaution to warn British tourists not to bite the mosquito.
According to the Greek public health body, 243 of those infected with the virus last year showed signs of more serious circumstances such as encephalitis or meningitis. This is a much greater rate than anticipated.
Countries like Serbia, Romania, Italy, and Cyprus, as well as Greece, have also seen rates of infection soar. There has not been a human situation in Britain yet, although James Logan, Head of the Disease Control Department at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that it was a surprise.
There is no vaccine for the West Nile virus and only suggestion for health officials to safeguard against it is to wear lengthy clothes and use insect repellents to prevent mosquito biting.