JERUSALEM, June 27 (Xinhua) — The number of patients who have died of West Nile fever in Israel reached seven, with three new deaths, said the Israeli Health Ministry on Thursday.

The total number of infection cases since the beginning of May rose to 81, with 33 new cases, the ministry said in a statement.

It noted that all the cases diagnosed so far are residents in central Israel, of which 64 were hospitalized, with six under ventilation.

The viral disease, transmitted by mosquito bites, usually occurs in Israel between June and November every year. This year, it erupted earlier, probably due to humid weather, according to the statement.

The virus usually causes flu-like symptoms, including headaches, fever, and muscle aches. However, in about one in 150 cases, it can result in severe central nervous system illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis, potentially leading to paralysis, brain damage, or even death.