The Environmental Protection Ministry of announced Sunday that the West Nile virus has been found in the northern Jezreel Valley and called on local authorities to take steps to combat the mosquito-borne disease, including monitoring and immediate pest control.
The new findings come after West Nile-infected mosquitoes were found in the greater Tel Aviv area earlier this month.
“As in every season, the Environmental Protection Ministry monitors and catches mosquitoes. Adult mosquitoes are identified and tested in the laboratories of the Health Ministry. Infected mosquitoes were found in the traps set in the second half of August in the Jezreel Valley,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Ahead of the High Holidays, we call on the authorities to urgently address the areas where mosquito infestations have been detected,” Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said in the statement.
Due to the climate crisis and how it creates optimal conditions for mosquito to breed, Gamliel said that it is “important to prevent the formation of conditions for additional infestations such as sewage breaches and the accumulation of stagnant water.”
The statement also issued a special warning for the mosquito-borne virus in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“During this period of the outbreak of the coronavirus, patients living in areas where infected mosquitoes have been found should be especially wary of the West Nile virus,” it said. “Because there is no vaccine, preventing mosquito bites is the main way to break the cycle of transmitting the disease [from animals] to humans.”
West Nile fever is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it originates in animals and is transmitted to humans. It is caused by a virus found mainly in birds and is spread to humans through mosquito bites.
In most cases, bites cause a mild, flu-like illness that goes away on its own. Symptoms include fever, headache, weakness, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis, rash and sometimes nausea and diarrhea.
However, in 2018, three Israelis died from the disease. Last year, according to Health Ministry figures, 32 human cases of West Nile fever were reported in 27 localities, infected animals were found in four locations, and infected mosquitoes were spotted in 34 places throughout the country.
The ministry has set out a list of steps the public should take to reduce exposure to West Nile fever.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.