Three people in Israel were diagnosed with West Nile Fever last month, bringing to 15 the number of people in the country who have contracted the virus this year, according to Health Ministry figures.
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West Nile fever is seasonal: The high point of its outbreak is from August to October. Every year dozens of people are infected with the virus, although few cases are fatal.
Two of the 15 patients this year were diagnosed through laboratory tests and the rest by their clinical symptoms. The patients live in 12 different communities from Haifa and Afula to Ashkelon. Six live in the greater Tel Aviv area.
West Nile fever is usually not considered a serious illness. The virus originates in birds, from which it is transferred to mosquitos, which can then pass it on to humans. In Israel, the disease is passed on to humans mainly by two species of mosquitos, Culex pipiens and Culex perexiguus.
Sometimes victims have no symptoms and sometimes the disease produces symptoms similar to those of the flu, which disappear on their own. These symptoms include fever, headaches, weakness, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis, rash and sometimes nausea and diarrhea. In the 1 percent of cases that are considered serious, symptoms are neurological, like those of meningitis, and can include paralysis.
The incubation period of the virus is a week to two weeks; in unusual cases it can be as long as three weeks. There is no specific treatment for West Nile fever; the main effort is prevention. The Health Ministry recommends taking steps to avoid mosquito bites, such as using mosquito repellant, putting up window screens and wearing protective clothing. The ministry also recommends immediately reporting to the authorities the presence of mosquitos and standing water.
In 2013, 71 cases of West Nile fever were reported in Israel, four of which resulted in death. In 2012, 89 people contracted the virus, two of whom died.