Brits heading to Greece this summer are being warned to take extra precautions against a deadly virus that is taking hold in the popular holiday country.
Those with plans to visit a variety of tourist hotspots – including Kos, Rhodes, Crete and Corfu – have been told to protect themselves against West Nile virus, which took 50 lives last year.
Greek officials have warned visitors about the increased risk of the mosquito-borne disease, and the UK Foreign Office has also updated its travel advice to prepare holidaymakers.
Record numbers infected last year
Last year a record 316 people in Greece were infected.
“There have been enough cases to know that this is now a public health issue,” said Danai Pervanidou, who heads the office for vector-borne diseases at the national organisation for public health (Keelpno).
“The virus has established itself in Greece through migratory birds and we are recommending that everyone takes personal protective measures such as wearing long sleeves, avoiding places with stagnant water and using mosquito nets and repellent.”
West Nile virus is spread by the insects after they have fed on the blood of infected birds.
What are the symptoms of West Nile virus?
Although it is often symptomless, some people affected by West Nile virus will experience mild flu-like issues, such as fever and headaches. Only one per cent of cases worldwide will go on to develop into serious illness.
But among those diagnosed in Greece last year, 243 patients showed signs of diseases like meningitis, acute paralysis and encephalitis.
Not since 2012 has there been an outbreak of this level, and Greek authorities are working to try and control the disease.
A health warning has also been put out by the US Embassy, which has recommended using mosquito repellent when outdoors and closing doors or windows or using screens.