Two die from cases of West Nile virus, over 25 Israelis infected

Two women in their 80s died midday Saturday at Rabin-campus Beilinson Medical Center after allegedly contracting West Nile fever. Maariv reported.

At least twenty-five residents of central Israel, the majority of whom are in their seventies, have been hospitalized at Ichilov Hospital and Sheba Medical Center after contracting the deadly virus. Some are on ventilators in intensive care.

Israeli doctors have never before faced such a massive outbreak of the disease, which is usually mild but can put the lives of the elderly at risk.

At Ichilov Hospital, one person is on a ventilator and sedated and is in serious condition. Another person has been weaned off the ventilator and is in moderate condition. Two other people are also in moderate condition and the others have been released.

At Sheba Medical Center, other patients are hospitalized, some sedated and ventilated and in serious condition. At Meir Medical Center, one person was treated and released. There are likely other infected people who have not sought emergency care.

An ambulance is seen at the entrance to the emergency room of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in Ramat Gan, Israel, July 15, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/RAMI AMICHAY)

According to the Health Ministry, the disease has been prevalent in Israel for many years and tends to strike most often in the summer.

West Nile virus outbreaks in Israel

The first documented outbreak of West Nile fever in Israel was recorded between 1950 and 1954, with a second outbreak in 1957.

Increased viral activity was documented again in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1997, the disease was diagnosed in birds, with flocks of geese being particularly affected. A large-scale outbreak occurred a year later. In 2000, there was an outbreak with more than 400 cases. Since 2001, a few dozen cases have been diagnosed each year.

Every year, Israel reports several dozen cases, mostly among people in their 40s and older. This summer’s outbreak is serious and expected to get worse.

Infected mosquitoes are usually found in the Sharon region, including Hadera, Pardess Hanna, Binyamina and Caesarea.

However, infections have been reported across the country, from north to south. In June, cases were recorded in north Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Givatayim and the Savyon area.

The disease is usually mild but can lead to serious illness and death. Most infections are asymptomatic. Some cases have flu-like symptoms that go away on their own. Symptoms include fever, headache, weakness, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis, rash, and sometimes nausea and diarrhea.

In approximately 1% of cases, the disease becomes severe, with neurological symptoms suggestive of meningitis, acute encephalitis or acute flaccid paralysis. The incubation period is usually 5 to 21 days. The disease is not spread from person to person and there is no risk of infection when near an infected person.

Most mosquitoes in Israel are not infected. However, if an allergic reaction to a bite occurs, indicated by swelling, redness and itching, or signs of infection such as local redness, heat, pain or high fever, or if symptoms flu-like symptoms appear after a bite, such as high fever, weakness, muscle pain, shortness of breath and vomiting, consult a doctor.

The disease is not transmitted from person to person and the risk of infection is very low. The disease also cannot be transmitted from infected animals to humans. People at high risk include people with chronic illnesses that weaken the immune system, cancer patients with weakened immune systems, infants, and the elderly.

Those who have been infected with West Nile virus in the past may become infected again.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile fever and a vaccine only exists for horses. In most cases, the condition goes away on its own within a few days or weeks. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms with rest, plenty of fluids, antipyretics, and pain relievers.

In severe cases requiring hospitalization, treatment includes intravenous fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and in severe cases, ventilation. Attempts are made in severe cases with neurological complications to treat with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) for five days.

Since there is no treatment for the disease, the only way to combat it is to prevent mosquito bites by using mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, fans to repel mosquitoes, and appropriate clothing. If you identify an area with many mosquitoes or a reservoir of water, report it to local authorities immediately.

News Source :
Gn Health

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