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The West Nile virus is a contagious disease transmitted by mosquitoes which are widespread across southern Europe. The tropical virus infects both animals and humans with symptoms of a fever or a rash common in around 20 percent of people who test positive.
An outbreak of the virus was first reported in Germany in 2019 – with five people infected in the east of the country, including in the capital Berlin.
Experts say more than one hundred others may have also carried the virus without showing any symptoms.
It is feared the soaring summer temperatures on the continent could provide the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes to transmit the disease.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the governing body of public health in Germany, fear the West Nile virus could become “established” in the country.
The RKI state: “Experience with the West Nile virus in southern European countries suggests that it will become established in Germany and will probably continue to spread.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other mild symptoms.
The CDC estimate just one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal illness.
When the transmission of the disease was recorded in Germany last year, virologist Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit warned the virus could be around for more than 10 years.
Speaking to German magazine De Spiegel in October, he said: “The virus will keep us busy for years or even decades to come.”
The WNV has not only been detected in Germany but cases and deaths have been confirmed in warmer European nations.
In 2018, 107 cases of the virus and 11 deaths were recorded by health authorities in Greece.
A similar outbreak was reported in the country in 2012 with 161 infections and 18 fatalities.
So far there is no vaccine for the mosquito-borne disease and it cannot be transmitted through human-to-human contact.
It can only prevented through traditional methods such as nets and mosquito repellent.
The disease affects other animals, last year 51 cases were reported in birds and 32 in horses.
In 2018 there were only ten cases in birds and two in horses.
According to the NHS most people with the virus are asymptomatic or have mild flu-like symptoms.
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NHS website states: “Most people with WNV have no symptoms. Some people develop mild flu-like symptoms, nausea and skin rash.
“The infection usually goes away on its own without treatment.
“The virus is not contagious. You only get it from being bitten by an infected mosquito.
“Very young and elderly people, and people with conditions like diabetes are more at risk of developing severe infection.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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