Alarms are being rung by Israel’s Health Ministry as West Nile virus cases surge to a decade high.

Israel’s Health Ministry anounced on Monday that West Nile virus infections have reached their highest levels in years, with seven fatalities reported among elderly patients and dozens more hospitalized across the country.

According to Health Ministry statistics, 81 patients have been diagnosed with West Nile virus so far this year. All seven fatalities were individuals aged 65 and over, highlighting the increased risk for older populations. Of the critically ill patients currently hospitalized, six are also over 65, with one patient in the 45-65 age range.

Three children under 18 have also contracted the virus but are listed in stable condition, including a 9-year-old girl from northern Tel Aviv who was recently released from Ichilov Hospital.

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry has identified infected mosquitoes in several locations, including Ben Gurion International Airport, Caesarea, Modi’in, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Beit Aryeh and Maaleh Adumim. Officials are urging the public to take precautions, such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves, and avoid standing in water where mosquitoes breed.

Transmission of West Nile virus occurs when mosquitoes feed on infected birds and subsequently bite humans. Although most people infected with the virus remain asymptomatic, about one in five will experience a variety of flu-like symptoms, including fever and body aches. In a small number of cases, the infection can lead to serious neurological disorders that may be life-threatening.

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