NDSC urges travellers to take preventative measures against mosquito bites when abroad
The National Disease Surveillance Centre today (Monday) urged intending travellers to countries where mosquitoes are prevalent to take routine preventative measures against insect bites, following confirmation of West Nile Virus in two Irish travellers who returned from the Algarve in July. The initial diagnosis was made at the National Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD.
NDSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown said that West Nile Virus infection is normally a very mild illness, causing severe disease in less than one per cent of individuals.
"The most severe disease is seen in those aged over 80; severe disease is virtually unknown in children. In this instance, neither traveller required hospitalisation. One individual has fully recovered while the other is getting better. Nonetheless, it is important that the public are aware of this small, potential risk when visiting any area where mosquitoes are common.
"West Nile Virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Four out of five people who are bitten will have no symptoms at all, while about 20% will develop a mild flu-like illness, with fever, headache, rash and aches and pains. Less than one per cent develop more severe disease which produces headache, high fever, stiff neck, sore eyes, disorientation, muscle weakness, convulsions and coma.
"People should enjoy their holidays as normal. The best way to protect against West Nile Virus, is to protect yourself against mosquito bites. Travellers should note that mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus are most active at dawn and dusk. Where possible, people should avoid areas near water where mosquitoes are more likely to be present. Long sleeves, long trousers, socks and closed shoes should be worn and mosquito repellents used. When indoors, screens, nets and air conditioning can reduce the possibility of mosquito bites. Taking these simple measures will also help to protect against other mosquito-borne diseases.
"Returned travellers who become ill and in need of medical attention should inform their doctor that they have been abroad. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for the disease. Mild cases recover quickly with simple symptomatic ('cold and flu') treatment. More severe cases require hospitalisation and specialised supportive treatment. The Irish public health risk is minimal as West Nile Virus is not transmitted through person to person contact," added Dr McKeown.