Greece holidaymakers warned of risk of West Nile

British holidaymakers to Greece have been warned to protect themselves against West Nile virus this summer.

West Nile virus is a rare mosquito-borne infection that can be fatal. 

In 2018, there were more than 300 cases of the virus in Greece, reports the UK Foreign Office (FCO). The number marked a steep uptick on previous years.

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According to the World Health Organisation, the spike in 2018 cases was due to the early start of the transmission season, brought on by high temperatures and extended rainy spells, which was an ideal breeding ground for the infection.

According to the FCO, tourists should take preventative measures including minimising exposure to mosquitoes, using repellent when outside and closing doors and windows.

The West Nile season typically runs from mid-June until November, according to the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre.

Most people infected with West Nile are symtom-free, although a small number will develop symptoms including a fever, headache, tiredness, body aches, nausea and skin rash. 

There is no vaccine and travellers should take preventative measures to avoid being bitten.

“There have been enough cases to know that this is now a public health issue,” Danai Pervanidou, from national public health organisation Keelpno, told The Guardian

“The virus has established itself in Greece through migratory birds and we are recommending that everyone takes personal protective measures such as wearing long sleeves, avoiding places with stagnant water and using mosquito nets and repellent.”

Last year, alongside Greece, European countries including Italy, Romania, Hungary and Serbia reported cases of West Nile.

British tourists make more than three million visits to Greece each year.

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