Dengue fever alarm: Warning issued over NEW panic – ‘Risk of outbreak’

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As Spain begins to ease lockdown restrictions and starts to allow tourists to finally return to the country, health authorities are warning they must be “prepared for the prevention and control of new outbreaks”.

Rosa Cano Portero, member of the Public Health Surveillance Group of Spanish Society of Epidemiology, and Beatriz Fernández Martínez, epidemiologist, said the tiger mosquito is “all over the Mediterranean coast, a large part of Andalusia and some inland regions”.

She warned the mosquitoes, which spread the disease, “continue to expand” due to human factors including “trade, the global economy, displacement” as well as environmental factors.

She said: “It is believed that climate change may favour its expansion to new areas further north.

“The regions where there is more risk are those that have had Aedes albopictus (tiger mosquito) established for the longest time and have large movements of people.

“In the regions, Public Health Services establish appropriate plans that are activated during the season of the vector and that usually coincides with that of the largest tourist movements.”

Over the last three years, around 200 cases a year have been reported to the National Epidemiological Surveillance Network in Spain.

Most of these cases were imported cases from the likes of Latin America and Asia, where the disease is endemic.

Spain has recorded autochthonous cases of the fever – those developed locally – since 2018, with six found that year and one last year. These cases were all attributed to tiger mosquitos.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the number of dengue cases has “increased enormously”, with figures multiplying by 30 in recent decades.

WHO warned “about half of the world’s population has the risk of contracting the disease”.

Globally, it is estimated there are around 50 to 100 million cases.

Carme Carrion Ribas, director of the Master in Digital Health at the Open University of Catalonia, said: “It is impossible to predict when and it does not have to be immediate, but the risk exists.”

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Although admitting it is “difficult to forecast”, Ms Ribas added: “due to the climatic emergency that we are experiencing and globalisation, the epidemic outbreaks of unknown diseases, or known ones that are not common in our environment, are going to take place.

“As seen these days, we live in a global and interconnected world and this has an impact on health.”

She said there has been an increase of mosquitoes spotted in areas where they are normally not likely to be found.

Ms Ribas continued: “Clearly the areas with the presence of the tiger mosquito are mostly in the Mediterranean area and therefore, it is there where there are more probabilities of having dengue cases.

“However, given the mobility of people, these mosquitoes can also travel with us and in fact mosquitoes have been seen in areas where due to the temperature and humidity we would not expect to find them like Madrid.

“Mosquitoes probably travelled inside a vehicle or even inside a train or bus.”

There is currently no cure for dengue fever, which is highly contagious, but the main prevention measure is to control mosquito populations and avoid bites.

Symptoms include a fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, muscle aches and a rash.

They usually appear within four to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

Ms Ribas said: “It generates diverse symptoms depending on the person.

“In most cases, there is significant, but not severe, joint pain.

“However, there can be serious cases and even some deaths, but this usually happens in endemic areas, where the population receives repeated bites and possibly various infections.”

France, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Portugal have all registered cases.

Additional reporting my Maria Ortega

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