Spain is suffering from an outbreak of Nile fever. The virus has claimed three lives and infected 55 people. Now, it has spread to a popular tourist destination, prompting an official health alert.
The outbreak started in mid-August in the riverside towns of Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río and then spread to parts of Seville city 25 miles away.
It has now jumped another 65 miles to the coastal resort of Cádiz where an emergency meeting is to be held tomorrow with the mayors of the municipality.
All four of the people affected in Cádiz are in hospital and one is in intensive care.
Surveys are being carried out in the city to see which municipalities have been hit.
Health chiefs say it is one of the country’s worst outbreaks of Nile fever and drones have taken to the air in Seville to disinfect regions where the transmitting mosquito is breeding.
The regional government of Andalusia is spending nearly £100,000 on the measure.
An army of tractors has already been treating the riverside towns of Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río, as well as parts of Seville, and Cádiz is expected to do the same when emergency measures are decided tomorrow.
The outbreak has been described as “an extraordinary situation” and there are real fears it could spread to yet more parts of Spain and even to the holiday islands.
The action plan is to be repeated each year in a bid to stop further outbreaks amid allegations that the municipalities should have been properly warned about the dangers of Nile fever which produces meningitis in its most severe form.
The three people who have died come from Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río and were aged in their 70s and 80s.
In Coria del Río and La Puebla del Río, there has been massive defumigation of sports facilities, roads, squares, parks and river beds, with residents being urged to take all health precautions, including staying indoors between dusk and dawn, using insect repellant and mosquito nets, turning off lights and keeping all their homes clean, including swimming pools.
Nile virus is generally transmitted by mosquitoes that bite birds. The insects carry the virus and deposit it in both humans and horses.
A significant number of people do not have symptoms but it can lead to serious health problems and death. A number of horses in the area have been tested positive for Nile fever.
According to data provided by the WHO, 20 per cent of those who become infected suffer symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, body pain, nausea and to a lesser extent, skin rashes or enlarged lymph nodes.
In its worst version, it can cause a neuroinvasive disease such as encephalitis, meningitis or poliomyelitis. WHO assures that it occurs only in one of every 150 cases and that it can happen in people of any age although those over 50 years of age and people with immune problems are at higher risk.
This outbreak of the Nile virus is the largest that has been recorded in Andalusia and is attributed to the 30 percent increase in mosquitoes in the wetlands of the Doñana National Park and the Guadalquivir river.
Additional reporting by Rita Sobot