West Nile fever caused by West Nile virus (WNv) is a mosquito-borne disease that affects horses and humans. Mosquitoes become infected from feeding on wild birds that carry the virus. Migrating wild birds can introduce the virus to new areas.
There have never been cases of West Nile fever in horses or people in UK. However, in recent summers there have been cases of disease in horses in France and Spain where it was introduced by migrating birds. In addition, one of the principal mosquito vector species for WNv, Culex modestus, was recently found to have established in southeast England, potentially increasing the risk of disease transmission.
Analyses by EPIC have demonstrated that given the current locations of outbreaks in the south of France, there is a small risk that the disease would be carried to England by migrating birds. If WNv was to expand further into the north of France, the threat to England and to Scotland would increase.
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