The Environmental Protection Ministry said Wednesday it had detected mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in a Jerusalem stream bed, raising concern that the potentially lethal fever-causing disease could spread to the local population.
Mosquitoes carrying the virus were found in Wadi Al-Hafi, between the capital’s northern neighborhoods of Neve Ya’akov and Pisgat Zeev.
“The discovery of mosquitoes infected with West Nile fever presents the danger of an outbreak of the disease,” the ministry said in a statement.
Last year three people died and dozens fell ill amid one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in years.
The ministry said it demanded the Jerusalem municipality take immediate action to counter the threat, including notifying residents and other people in the area who spend time outdoors such as hikers.
In addition, the ministry ordered monitoring of all potential sources for mosquito larvae incubation and “immediate pest control using the ministry-approved compounds if larvae or mosquito infestations are found.”
The combination of stagnant water and high temperatures are ideal for mosquito breeding grounds, the ministry said, and noted such conditions are more common during the summer months.
Sewage and effluent spills as well as summer rainfall, caused in part by climate change, can create an abundance of mosquito breeding conditions, the statement noted.
Since the beginning of the year, mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus have been found in eight locations around the country, including the recent discovery in Jerusalem. The ministry called on local authorities to increase activities to reduce potential harm by infected mosquitoes.
Local authorities, it said, bear the responsibility to deal with the mosquito hazard. The statement also advised citizens to take additional measures such as drying up stagnant water in yards, gardens and bomb shelters; installing insect screens on the windows of their homes; and using mosquito repellent when necessary.
West Nile fever symptoms include fever, rash and headache. Rarely, more serious side effects such as meningitis can develop, even leading to death.
Preventative measures in Israel include inter-ministerial efforts to locate and monitor infected mosquitoes, the statement said.