Hospital confirms death of two women in their 80s from West Nile virus

Beilinson Hospital says test results show the two women died of the virus; Health Ministry says there are now 32 confirmed cases, a sharp rise from last year

Reporter at The Times of Israel

A mosquito bites a person. (iStock from Getty Images/fotomarekka)
A mosquito bites a person. (iStock from Getty Images/fotomarekka)

Test results confirmed that two women in their eighties died of West Nile fever, Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva announced Monday. The women had died on Saturday.

The hospital also confirmed that two more patients contracted the disease. One is now in stable condition, and another has been discharged. The hospital is waiting for test results about a third patient.

Also Monday, the Health Ministry said that 32 people have contacted West Nile fever since the beginning of May. This is a large spike compared to last year, when there were only six cases from January to June.

The disease is mostly spread by birds and transmitted to animals and humans by mosquito bites, said Dr. Elad Goldberg, deputy director of  the Internal Medicine Department at the hospital.

There are no specific treatments for the disease, he said. About 80% of those infected show no symptoms. Others develop a viral infection with headaches and fever.

Only 1% of infected patients develop severe symptoms. Young people are usually able to fight off the disease, but elderly people are at a higher risk of dying from it.

“The most effective way is to protect yourself with the help of mosquito repellents, protective nets and the removal of standing water sources in the garden, yard and home,” Goldberg said.

The Health Ministry recommends that people should wear “long attire in the hours of darkness, when mosquitos are most active, install window screens and use fans.”

Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant bodies of water, even small amounts of water. The ministry recommends replacing water in vases and changing pets’ drinking bowls at least once per week.

The ministry said that the virus appeared early this year, most likely because of global warming.

People in the center of Israel are especially at risk of contracting the disease because of the area’s high humidity, which creates an ideal breeding ground.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this story.

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