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Mosquitos carrying West Nile virus identified near Eilat

Health Ministry says one Israeli has died of virus so far this year, while Environment Ministry urges using repellent and not allowing bodies of water to become stagnant

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: An area at a date field in Eilat were West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes were found in 2020. (Gal Zagron/Environment Ministry)
Illustrative: An area at a date field in Eilat were West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes were found in 2020. (Gal Zagron/Environment Ministry)

Mosquitos carrying West Nile virus have been discovered in Israel for the first time this year in the area of Eilat, authorities said on Tuesday.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said Tuesday that the infected mosquitoes were discovered at the end of July near date plantations in Eilat, the Grofit Kibbutz and at the Aqaba crossing with Jordan.

Individuals infected with West Nile virus generally experience flu-like symptoms and recover within a week, but in rare cases the disease can be fatal. The Health Ministry said Tuesday that since the start of 2022, one Israeli who became infected with the virus has died, and another is hospitalized in serious condition.

The ministry did not detail how or where they became infected.

Dr. Oren Shattach Catabi of the Health Ministry’s epidemiological department said the only way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid being bitten.

“Since there is no vaccine against West Nile virus, with the start of the virus’s peak season in Israel — between August and October — it is recommended to take extra care in order to avoid mosquito bites,” he said.

In a joint statement, the ministries called on the public in the affected areas to be extra aware and to use mosquito netting and repellents where necessary.

A mosquito (illustrative photo credit: CC-BY 2.0 hofluk, Flickr)
A mosquito (CC-BY 2.0 hofluk, Flickr)

The Environmental Protection Ministry called on Eilat authorities to be on high alert and to carry out pest control efforts where needed.

It also warned the public against allowing bodies of water to sit stagnant, including in gutters and basements, as they can become breeding ground for mosquitos that could be carrying the disease.

In 2020, mosquitos carrying West Nile virus spread as far as the Tel Aviv area, and in 2018 dozens were hospitalized in the largest outbreak in recent years.

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