Mosquito populations swell and spread disease.
Those taking a holiday in Greece this year should take extra care to spray with insect repellent following warnings about the dangers of the West Nile Virus. Researchers at the UK Liverpool University say warmer summers and milder winters in the Balkans and north-west Europe has seen Asian tiger mosquito populations swell and the disease has spread in several regions of Greece in recent years.
Although most people suffer no ill effects, the Nile Virus can lead to complications that result in severe symptoms, even death, in a few cases.
Authorities in all regions of Crete, including Chania and Rethymnon are taking no chances this year. They are to launch control programmes in a bid to combat the virus by attacking the mosquitoes that can spread it.
Medics plan to take immediate measure to protect public health on Crete, one of the biggest holiday islands in Greece.
Measures include spraying stagnant water and other areas in Crete where mosquitoes breed or lay eggs. Public health pamphlets will also urge locals to reduce sites where water can stagnate, not to leave water in containers and to regularly replace water in animal troughs.
The West Nile Virus is usually spread by a bite from an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds. They then spread the virus to humans and to other animals.
There have been no cases of the virus reported in in the UK except in those who have travelled abroad and no reported cases from visitors to the Greek Islands. There was one UK case in 2006 and another in 2007; both in people who had been on holiday in Canada.
In around four out of five people known to have been infected with the virus there are no symptoms at all. Others may develop mild flu-like symptoms such as a headache and high temperature that may last a few days.
If the virus does develop into a severe condition it can prove fatal. Latest estimates of fatality rates are from three to 15% of those who develop severe symptoms with the elderly being the most vulnerable.
In Greece last year there were 101 recorded cases of victims suffering severe symptoms from the West Nile Virus of which which eight proved fatal. This figure is much lower that in 2010 when there were 260 reported cases and 34 deaths.