Health officials in Andalucia have put the region on red alert after 18 people were struck down with the serious bug viral meningitis which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Sixteen have been admitted to hospital and five are in intensive care. The outbreak is in the province of Seville and so far concentrated in the Puebla del Río and Coria del Río districts which are within the Guadalquivir marsh area.
But the Andalucian government has declared a red alert, with warnings to the entire population and tourists.
“All the necessary samples have been taken and sent to the reference laboratory in order to determine the cause,” said a Ministry of Health spokesperson.
Investigators are trying to establish a common link between the cases. Residents and tourists are being urged not to stay outdoors between dusk and dawn.
Health chiefs are also advising the use of mosquito nets on windows and doors and leaving lights off so as not to attract the insects.
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Further tests are being carried out on the 18 patients to see if they have contracted a more serious form of the virus, such as Nile fever or lymphocytic chorimeningitis.
Four have come back as negative.
The result of the other tests are awaited.
Nile fever has a ten per cent risk of death among patients with nervous system symptoms whilst lymphocytic chorimeningitis is usually transmitted by rats.
Meningoencephalitis also known as encephalomeningitis is an inflammation of the brain and its surrounding protective membranes.
It resembles both meningitis and encephalitis.
Both Coria del Río and Puebla del Río, with a total population of just over 40,000, are by rivers.
Those infected with viral meningoencefalitis suffer from body aches, diarrhea, fever, headaches, nausea.
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Additional reporting by Rita Sobot