A patient has tested positive for both Covid-19 and the potentially deadly West Nile Virus.
The case was detected this week in a young man who was admitted to the Virgen del Rocio Hospital in Seville, Spain.
The man first tested positive for coronavirus before showing symptoms compatible with meningitis, similar to those suffering from the West Nile illness.
Follow up tests revealed the patient had been infected by both diseases in what is believed to be the first ever case of its kind, reports El Pais.
It is not yet known if Covid made him more susceptible to catching the mosquito-borne disease.
Expert hematologist Salvador Oyonarte said: ‘It is difficult to know, it is a young person and no relationship can be established yet, we don’t know whether it was the coronavirus first, or if he was bitten by the mosquito while he was in his house.’
He added that there were no other reported similar cases and that the young man’s diagnosis was ‘atypical’.
What is most concerning the experts is the fact that the West Nile virus has been detected so early in the year.
Dr Oyonarte added: ‘It surprises me that it is so soon. We had cases in humans in 2010 and 2016 and then last year’s outbreak happened, which was exceptional, but they have always been evidenced later.’
There are usually outbreaks detected in birds or horses before the disease moves on to humans.
Last summer, seven people died and 31 were hospitalised with the West Nile virus in the southernmost region of Andalucia. It was the worst outbreak of the disease in the country’s history.
Veterinary virologist Elisa Perez from the Animal Health Research Centre added: ‘The virus develops when there are many mosquitoes and temperatures are higher, but the mosquito samples have not grown this year.
‘We do not know if it is a coincidence or if more control tests are being done in the cases of patients with meningitis.
‘What is alarming is that it has been detected earlier in humans than in animals.’
The patient remains in intensive care.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement: ‘Upon knowing the results of the tests, all the protocols have been immediately activated, as well as the public health measures.
‘In addition, the clinical samples collected will be sent to the reference laboratory (Hospital Virgen de las Nieves in Granada) and the National Center for Microbiology.’
Authorities in Spain, particularly in Andalucia, have launched extensive fumigating regimes to keep down the number of mosquitos capable of transmitting the disease.
The virus is carried by the genus Culex, a mosquito which has become more common amid rising temperatures.
They populate hot areas which have large bodies of water, such as marshes and riverbeds.
According to the World Health Organisation, the virus kills 0.1% of those infected, and causes meningitis of the brain in 1% of sufferers.
Some 20% of carriers suffer a fever while around 80% are asymptomatic.
The elderly or those with other health conditions are said to be more at risk from developing serious or life threatening symptoms.
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