West Nile virus: Foreign Office warns Greece holidaymakers to take precautions against mosquitoes

by on 19 July 2019

The Foreign Office has issued a warning to people planning to travel to Greece to take precautions against the West Nile virus.

This year, mosquito bites were added to the usual tourist warnings about wildfires and strikes in Greece.

It comes after more than 300 cases of the virus were reported in the country in 2018, a steep rise from previous years.

The World Health Organisation attributed the 2018 spike to an early start of transmission season, brought on by high temperatures and extended rainy spells, which provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying the virus.

According to the Foreign Office, more than 3 million visits are made to the Mediterranean country by British nationals each year.

While most visits are “trouble-free”, the British Foreign Office has advised that: “There were a number of cases of West Nile virus in Greece in 2018.

“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.”

It also warned against regular strikes, especially to public transport, localised or severe weather extremes and wildfires.

A record 316 people were infected with the virus last year, resulting in the death of 50 Greek people, according to the Guardian.

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

“The virus has established itself in Greece through migratory birds and we are recommending that everyone takes personal protective measures such as wearing long sleeves, avoiding places with stagnant water and using mosquito nets and repellent.”

“It is impossible to predict the area of virus circulation because of its complex epidemiology but what we do know is that it has moved from villages and wetlands in rural areas to big urban centres, including the Attica region [around Athens] and Thessaloniki,” Mr Pervanidou continued.

“Just as in winter when we expect an outbreak of influenza, in summer we now have to expect cases of West Nile fever. We have to be prepared.”

REBECCA SPEARE-COLE – standard.co.uk