Health ministry confirms two Israelis dead in mass West Nile fever outbreak

14 people in serious condition after contracting mosquito-transmitted disease; officials say twice as many cases reported than last year

A mosquito (CC-BY 2.0 hofluk, Flickr)
A mosquito (CC-BY 2.0 hofluk, Flickr)

Two Israelis have died in the past few weeks from West Nile fever, the Health Ministry said Thursday, amid the biggest outbreak of the mosquito-transmitted disease in recent years.

The ministry said in a statement that 68 cases have been reported — twice as much as last year — and that 14 of the patients were in serious condition.

Two people have died, it added, including an 85-year-old man with what the ministry described as “preexisting health problems.”

The second fatality is reportedly a 76-year-old man who died in the Assuta hospital in Ashdod three weeks ago. The Health Ministry was criticized Wednesday of failing to report the case, which was revealed by the Kan public broadcaster.

The hospital confirmed the death and said it had been reported to the ministry, which didn’t make it known to the public.

An 18-year-old resident of southern Israel who contracted the disease is currently in critical condition, suffering from organ failure and being kept sedated and on a respirator in Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center, reports said on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, tests confirmed that mosquitoes carrying the virus were found in coastal areas, including the Menashe Regional Council, Alona Regional Council, Pardes Hannah, Binyamina, and Caesarea.

The Environmental Protection Ministry warned residents to protect themselves against insect bites and called on the local authorities to spray insecticide in areas where there are large numbers of mosquitoes or larvae.

The peak season for the West Nile fever in Israel is between August and October. The incubation period in humans is 3-15 days.

Symptoms include fever, rash, headache, and, rarely, more serious side-effects such as meningitis could develop.

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