West Nile virus 'plaguing north-east Italy'

Several new strains being found, study suggests

West Nile virus 'plaguing north-east Italy'

(ANSA) - Milan, August 24 - A new strain of West Nile virus is becoming increasingly widespread in north-east Italy, health researchers said Friday. This virus, which was detected in a blood donor last month, differs from earlier strains seen in outbreaks in 2008 and 2009, says the study by the University of Padua. The study, conducted in the Veneto region, suggests several new strains are being found, and are starting earlier than in previous years. West Nile virus is a disease carried by mosquitoes which can cause encephalitis. The virus has emerged in recent years in Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries, and epidemics in these areas are becoming increasingly frequent, says the study, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Eurosurveillance. "This shows that the virus is able to winter in wetland areas near rivers, where it probably has established its endemic cycle", said Giorgio Palu, one of the authors of the study. An increase in the virus demands stricter surveillance by health authorities, he added.

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