France on Alert after Outbreak of West Nile Fever
Lichfield, John, The Independent (London, England)
WEST NILE fever, the mosquito- borne disease that has terrorised New York in the past year, is believed to have killed 15 Camargue horses in the south of France in recent weeks.
Although no case of human infection has been recorded, the local authorities are taking no risks. A large programme of extermination of mosquitoes and rats has been ordered in the marshlands known as the "Petite-Camargue", west of the Camargue wetlands proper in the delta of the Rhone.
The French government has also called on anyone living in the area - or who has passed through in recent weeks - to consult a doctor immediately if they fall ill with "flu-like symptoms".
The outbreak - the first in France for 34 years - is believed to have started with a bird from one of a dozen species that migrate regularly, or stray accidentally, between Africa and the French Mediterranean coast. The West Nile fever virus passes from mosquitoes to birds and back to mosquitoes in a permanent cycle but can sometimes spread through mosquito bites to humans and other mammals.
The disease can be fatal to children and the elderly and has killed seven people in New York since last summer. Another 52 people have fallen seriously ill, provoking the city's tabloid press to describe the cases as a "plague" and a health "catastrophe". The Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, ordered a vast mosquito eradication programme, including the spraying of the city by helicopters, which caused, in its turn, another health scare. …