West Nile fever is spreading in Israel, although the number of cases remains low.
Twelve cases of the disease, which generally surfaces in the summer, have been confirmed and another twelve patients are thought to be suffering from the illness. The diseases is spread to humans by mosquitoes who are infected with the virus by birds. Incidence of the fever has been centered in the Tel Aviv area.
West Nile causes flu-like symptoms, headaches, rashes and conjunctivitis, and in 8 percent of cases meningitis, which can affect the nervous system and even cause death.
An 87-year-old woman from Ramat Efal who had a history of heart and metabolic conditions died of West Nile fever this summer. Two patients remain hospitalized with symptoms of meningitis.
Most of those affected are over 65 or are suffering from chronic illness. The largest recent outbreak in Israel occurred in 2000 when more than 400 caught the fever and 29 people died of it.
The Health Ministry recommends taking measures to avoid contact with mosquitoes, including wearing long sleeves, using window screens, using mosquito repellent and eliminating standing water, where mosquitoes breed.
The ministry has also noted a rise in the incidence of mumps in recent months, with 4,190 cases since the beginning of the year. A ministry advisory committee has recommended a program of mumps vaccinations, particularly in areas where the outbreaks have occurred, notably in ultra-Orthodox communities.
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