As West Nile virus claims to live in neighboring Greece, Turkey is on high alert over the risk of infection from mosquitoes. “There are no obstacles for a mosquito arriving from abroad to thrive here,” says Associate Professor Erdal Polat of Istanbul University.
Nearly 190 people in the EU have been confirmed to have contracted West Nile virus this year.
According to the weekly report released the second week of August by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on communicable disease threats, a total of 188 cases of human infections have been reported since the start of the season. of transmission up to and including August 13, the latest date with available data.
By far the most, or 144, have been reported in Italy, where there have also been 10 deaths. Other infections were recorded in Greece, Austria, where there were two, two also in Romania and one in Slovakia. Additionally, Serbia, which borders the EU, has recorded 34 infections and three deaths. According to the ECDC, the transmission season generally lasts from June to November.
In Greece, 11 people have died so far. West Nile virus affects birds, but also horses and humans. In humans, the infection is usually mild or mild.
The proximity of Turkey and Greece has alerted experts who have pointed out that there are no effective vaccines or other antiviral agents to fight West Nile virus.
They warn that migratory birds can carry the virus as far as Turkey, a stopover for birds from around the world migrating between north and south.
Kenan Midilli, a virology expert from Istanbul University, told the Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Friday that most infected people showed no symptoms and pointed to cases in Istanbul’s past. “Only 20% of those infected show symptoms including fever, fatigue, vomiting, headache and the illness usually lasts two to six days. Only one in 150 people have severe illness and it is mostly in children and people over 50,” he said. Midilli recommended that the public take protective measures, such as effectively blocking all gaps in doors or windows in which mosquitoes can enter, use repellents and wear long-sleeved bite-resistant clothing.
Erdal Polat says culex, a genus of mosquitoes that act as a host for the virus, was the most prevalent species in Istanbul. “The virus will definitely be here sooner or later. It usually emerges during the bird migration months, from September and October to May and June. As for the culex, it is a widespread species but it is particularly concentrated in Silivri (Istanbul district), in areas closer to the Black Sea coast,” he said, noting that mosquitoes reproduce in stagnant fresh water.