West Nile Virus has been thriving during this year’s unnaturally warm weather, as the deadly disease now threatens a number of countries in Europe.
Mercury topping temperatures and dry conditions have created a tinderbox atmosphere which has allowed wildfires to wreak havoc across the mediterranean.
Both Greece and Portugal have been at the mercy of deadly fires which have torn through dry brush and killed people as it goes.
Those left unharmed by the fires however may now need to deal with the threat of a disease with no cure.
What is West Nile Virus?
West Nile virus is a deadly disease originally identified in Uganda’s West Nile district, hence the name.
The virus is spread via mosquitos, like in the case of malaria, and can have deadly complications.
Originally found in the late 1930’s, West Nile Virus has been sighted worldwide, making its first appearance in Europe during the 1960’s.
Mosquito season is the biggest spreader of the disease, as mosquitos breed and escalate the virus.
However, unlike malaria, the virus does not rely on spreading a parasite, as feeding on infected birds is a primary cause.
After mosquitos contract the disease from an infected bird, they can then spread it to humans.
Once humans have contracted West Nile Virus, it is difficult to spread, as the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) notes exposure via laboratory setting, blood transfusion or mother to baby via breast feeding.
Is West Nile Virus more deadly than Ebola?
Thankfully for many people, West Nile Virus poses very little threat and most who contract it do not experience adverse symptoms.
Very young and elderly people are most at risk from the virus, as well as those with additional conditions such as diabetes.
Roughly one in five people are at risk from developing the most severe symptoms of the disease.
Signs of severe infection in people with WNV are muscle weakness, confusion and fits, and severe cases can cause meningitis, a serious conditions which can cause the brain to swell if left untreated.
A burial team from the Liberian Ministry of Health unloads the bodies of Ebola victims onto a funeral pyre at a crematorium
The West Nile Virus is more difficult to contract than Ebola, which is spread via exposure to bodily fluids, and has a much lower fatality rate.
While most people are not at risk from the infection, there are easy ways to prevent contracting it.
Most people get West Nile Virus while travelling, as it is not particularly common in the UK.
Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to ensure you are not at risk from the virus, remaining vigilant with insect spray and mosquito nets if abroad.
If you live in an area prone to West Nile Virus, use air conditioning and special screens to keep mosquitos out.