At least five people in the Balkans who were infected with the mosquito-borne West Nile virus have died, and several dozen others have been hospitalized in the past month, according to officials in Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Croatia.
The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease that usually spreads in temperate and tropical regions. While most people affected by the disease shown only mild or no symptoms, severe disease symptoms can include severe headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
Kosovo authorities on Wednesday confirmed the country's first fatality, saying that the victim was a woman from central Kosovo who died on Sept 14, and officials in Macedonia said on Thursday one woman had died and two other people were infected with the West Nile virus.
According to Reuters, a spokesman from the Kosovo Health Ministry said on Thursday that two other people who died recently were also believed to have been infected with the same virus, but the cases had not been confirmed with laboratory blood tests.
Three people have died and 35 have been hospitalized in Serbia since August.
"This is the first time the West Nile virus has been officially registered in Serbia," Serbia's Department for Public Health said in a statement.
The department said that all the infected people were over the age of 50 and had other chronic illness. Croatia, the country that borders western Serbia, has reported five probable cases of the virus but no deaths.