ONE man has died and two other people are ill after being infected with a bird- and mosquito-borne African virus found in the TRNC for the first time. Seven more are being tested for West Nile Virus (WNV), it was revealed yesterday.
No details were disclosed of the dead man, who passed away yesterday afternoon, or of the other victims, but all lived in a village close to swampland that is currently being drained, said Health Ministry undersecretary Mustafa Akçaba as news of the WNV outbreak emerged.
“We are in contact with all the municipalities and the bicommunal Technical Committee on Health and are increasing spraying against mosquitoes in areas where water has accumulated, especially in swamps which we are trying to reclaim,” said Mr Akçaba.
“There is no epidemic or any need for anyone in the TRNC, or who is planning to visit the country, to panic, as we are stepping up precautionary measures.”
Infectious diseases specialist at Lefkoşa State Hospital Dr Nesil Bayraktar, who is treating two of the three WNV patients, told Cyprus Today: “Everyone is in danger of catching this virus whether they are young or old . . . It is not always fatal but some 2-to5 per cent of those infected may die.”
Dr Bayraktar called on the government to take immediate action to eradicate swamps and other mosquito-breeding areas, saying: “Since the beginning of summer, I have been voicing the need for spraying
mosquito-breeding sites. August is a particularly dangerous period as the mosquito population increases greatly then.
“Although there is no need to panic, people should use repellent sprays to protect themselves from mosquitoes. Pools should also be cleaned and not left to become breeding sites. In the meantime, anyone with a high fever should immediately consult a doctor or go to a health center.”
Head of Parliament’s Administrative, Public and Health Affairs Committee Jale Refik Rogers advised: “Measures that can be taken for individual protection include removing water deposits at home such as tanks that can help mosquitoes reproduce; putting up flyscreens on windows; using fly-repellent sprays or wearing long-sleeved tops and avoiding outdoor activities at peak times for mosquitoes.”
In an earlier statement, the Health Ministry said: “Areas of WNV contagion are mainly along migratory bird routes, with mosquitoes acquiring the virus from birds and then spreading it to humans. WNV is mainly seen in Africa, the Middle East, North America, western Asia and, more recently, in parts of Europe.”
The ministry said that although 26 WNV cases had been reported in Turkey last year, along with outbreaks in Italy and Greece, this was the first time that the disease had been detected in the TRNC — and that one case had also been diagnosed in South Cyprus earlier this year.