The Junta de Andalucía has activated in the province of Huelva active surveillance protocol in the public health network after the diagnosis of a case of West Nile fever in a horse in Almonte, as confirmed by the regional government.
This first phase includes the notification to all health centers within a radius of 12 kilometers for the preferential control of any nonspecific neurological symptom. If a case is diagnosed in humans, the second phase of the protocol provides for the suspension of blood donations or the performance of specific tests to rule out the presence of the virus. More than 50,000 people live in the surveillance zone surrounding Almonte, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics.
The European Union (EU) lives this year the worst epidemic of the Nile fever since records exist, according to data from the European Center for the Prevention and Control of Diseases (ECDC, in its acronym in English). Until yesterday, October 11, 1,402 people have suffered symptoms of the disease and 119 have died in the Union, to which should be added the 372 cases and 35 deaths recorded in neighboring areas such as Serbia and Kosovo. Italy is, with 536 cases and 43 deaths, the country most affected among the ten that have registered outbreaks.
In reality, the cases of infection are much higher since the virus is asymptomatic in four out of five infected people. In the rest, after an incubation that goes from three to 14 days, the disease manifests with fever, malaise, body aches and fatigue. The most severe cases, 1% of the total, cause episodes of encephalitis and meningitis.
Andalusia and Extremadura have suffered since 2004, when the virus was first identified in birds of Doñana, small sporadic outbreaks of Nile fever in people and horses. Miguel Ángel Clavero, scientist of the National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology, affirms that "the diagnosis confirms the circulation of the virus in the area, something that we already knew about". "He has already jumped the horses and now," continues this expert, "we must be attentive to what happens in the coming days and weeks to see the extent of the outbreak."
According to Clavero, the virus is present in several wetlands in the southern half of Spain, where it circulates between its reservoir (the birds) and its vector (mosquitoes, mainly of the species Colex pipiens). Of these, the disease jumps to humans and horses.
Javier Vázquez, veterinarian specialized in horses in the area, confirms that this first case of 2018 in horses was detected "at the end of last week" and that for now "the disease has affected only one horse from Almonte". "Nile fever is a very serious disease for an equine, which can cause death or cause irreversible consequences," he explains.