Greece holiday warning: Tourists told ‘take precautions’ as West Nile Virus spreads

by on 18 June 2019

GREECE tourists are being cautioned to protect themselves against mosquito bites following the outbreak of West Nile virus last year. Health officials have issued recommendations for how holidaymakers can prevent the virus.

Greece holidays are very popular with Britons keen to explore the rich history, stunning landscapes and famous cuisine of the country. However, tourists are being advised to be careful due to an outbreak of mosquito-borne West Nile virus last year when there were 300 cases and 50 Greeks died. Transmission of the virus occurs when mosquitos are active (between Spring and Autumn) with most infection observed between July and September. Greece is set to receive 31 million visitors this year and holidaymakers are urged to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

“There have been enough cases to know that this is now a public health issue,” Danai Pervanidou, who heads the office for vector-borne diseases at the national organisation for public health (Keelpno), told The Guardian.

A European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control spokeswoman told Express.co.uk: “Personal protection from mosquito bites is advisable for any person residing in or visiting affected areas, especially the elderly and immunocompromised who are at higher risk of developing West Nile neuroinvasive disease (WNND).

“Personal protective measures to reduce the risk of mosquito bites include the use of mosquito repellent in accordance with instructions indicated on the product label and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.

“In addition, window and door screens can keep mosquitoes out.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises: “You should consider preventative measures to minimise exposure to mosquitoes, for example using mosquito repellent when outdoors and closing doors or windows or using screens.”

Most people who get WNV display no symptoms and the infection usually goes away without treatment.

Greece: Tourists are being advised to be careful due to an outbreak of West Nile virus in 2018 (Image: Getty Images)

However, about one in five people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, or rash, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC added: “Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.”

A few people do develop serious symptoms: “About one in 150 people who are infected develop a severe illness affecting the central nervous system such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord),” said CDC.

Despite these statistics, last year, among those diagnosed in Greece, 243 displayed symptoms of neuro-invasive diseases such as encephalitis, meningitis and acute paralysis, reported The Guardian.

Consequently, steps are being taken in Greece to control infection outbreak this year.

The US embassy in Athens has issued a health alert encouraging citizens to take preventative measures, including keeping grass and shrubs trimmed and cleaning up mosquito breeding areas.

Information leaflets are also being distributed to airports and municipal and regional authorities nationwide.

The NHS advises that if you develop symptoms of WNV while you’re travelling you should check your travel insurance for how to get medical help while you’re away.

They add that if you notice symptoms when you get home, make sure to tell your GP where you’ve been travelling.

Italy, Cyprus, Romania and Serbia have also seen an increase in cases of West Nile virus.

Meanwhile, health chiefs in Spain have confirmed that three tourists who were enjoying a getaway to Alicante, Spain, have fallen ill with the chikungunya virus after the it was transmitted by the bite of an infected tiger mosquito

Symptoms of the virus can include fever, chills, joint pain and swelling, headaches, muscle pain, and a rash.

The health department has said that to date, there is no record of any other case of chikungunya in Valencia.

By HARRIET MALLINSON – express.co.uk