Unusual large number of West Nile virus infections in the EU/EEA and EU neighbouring countries
In 2018, as of 30 August 2018, 975 confirmed and probable autochthonous human WNV infections were reported by European countries: 710 in EU/EEA Member States and 265 in EU neighbouring countries. Italy reported 327 cases, Serbia 213, Greece 147, Romania 117, Hungary 96, Israel 49, France 11, Austria 8, Croatia 3, Kosovo 3 and Slovenia 1.
So far, this year, we observe a 3.4-fold increase in number of WNV infections in humans compared to the entire season last year. In comparison, the last major WNV season was in 2010, which resulted in 393 human WNV infections in the EU/EEA and EU neighbouring countries.
To date, a total of 63 deaths due to West Nile virus infection have been reported by Serbia (21), Greece (16), Italy (13), Romania (12), and Kosovo* (1). In comparison to the previous six years, the proportion of fatal cases has not increased.
The high number of cases observed this year compared with previous years suggests a high level of virus circulation in affected countries, which could potentially result in an even higher number of cases during the coming months.
The assessment of the transmission risk in the EU/EEA, as stated in ECDC’s Rapid Risk Assessment published on 13 August 2018, remains valid. Personal protection from mosquito bites is advisable for any person residing in or visiting affected areas, especially the elderly and immunocompromised who are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.