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Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
West Nile virus cases in Ireland
West Nile virus has killed hundreds in the US
Two cases of West Nile Virus infection have been confirmed in Ireland.

In both instances the patients had recently visited the Algarve in Portugal.

West Nile Virus usually causes mild symptoms such as fever or skin rashes, but can be deadly. It killed 264 in the US last year.

The Health Protection Agency has warned people travelling to Europe to take measures to avoid being bitten by infected mosquitoes.

The risk of humans becoming infected in Europe is still thought to be very low.
Dr Dilys Morgan
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes which suck the blood of infected birds and then feed on humans.

It has been found in parts of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia as well as North America. In Europe, recent outbreaks have occurred in Romania and Russia.

The Department of Health announced in May it had drawn up plans for dealing with an outbreak of the potentially deadly West Nile virus as a precaution.

The Irish cases were confirmed after tests on samples from the patients were carried out at the Health Protection Agency facilties in Porton.

Sporadic cases

Dr Dilys Morgan, a HPA West Nile Virus expert, said: "Although these are the first cases we are aware of having been contracted in the Algarve, there have been sporadic clusters of West Nile Virus in a number of European countries in recent decades.

"However, the risk of humans becoming infected in Europe is still thought to be very low."

Dr Morgan stressed that West Nile Virus cannot be passed from person to person.

She said: "80% of people infected will have no symptoms; around 20% will have a mild influenza-like illness and only around 1% will develop a more severe disease.

"This includes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain) which may produce headaches, fever, stiff neck, sore eyes, disorientation, muscle weakness, convulsions and coma and other neurological features."

The HPA advises travellers to areas where mosquitoes are problem to:

  • Wear loose fitting, light-weight clothing that covers up skin as much as possible.

  • Limit outdoor exposure during peak times of mosquito feeding - usually the hours from dusk to dawn.

  • Apply insect repellents to exposed areas.

  • Consider wearing clothes that are treated with insecticide sprays.

  • Make sure that indoor accommodation is screened to prevent mosquitoes from entering.

  • Consider placing insecticide-treated netting around beds.

Nile virus checks stepped up
03 Jul 03  |  Health
West Nile Disease
03 Jul 03  |  Medical notes

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