Concern over possible cases of autochthonous dengue fever in Barcelona

Epidemiologists are “concerned” about the possible Community transmission of dengue in Barcelona. “There is a potential risk that it exists.” they explain to this newspaper. At Barcelona is having many more imported cases of dengue fever in people who have traveled to countries such as Cuba, where there is an epidemic of dengue fever. This is a viral disease transmitted by tiger mosquitoes (which has been present in Catalonia since 2004 and has been spreading throughout the Mediterranean and the Peninsula) and is typical of tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The Agència de Salut Pública de Barcelona (Aspb), to whom the city’s hospitals report possible diagnoses, refuses to report on the matter.

According to ‘El País’, Catalonia has activated the surveillance systems of the ‘Aedes albopictus’, the popularly known as tiger mosquito (which transmits viruses such as dengue or zika), after a 16-year-old tourist had been hospitalized in France with dengue fever after having been on vacation in this community. In other words, it would be a possible case of autochthonous dengue. The Conselleria de Salut assures that “currently no case of autochthonous transmission of dengue has been confirmed in Catalonia”.

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“Epidemiological surveillance of the Agència de Salut Pública de Catalunya (Aspcat) works in the control of notifiable diseases, such as dengue. In all cases, the following is carried out investigation”, say sources from the department, which specifies that, “for privacy reasons, no details will be given”.

More dengue than ever

The head of the international health service of the Hospital Clínic, José Muñoz, assures that every year we see cases of travelers coming from abroad with dengue fever. “But this year we are seeing many coming from Cuba. And, if they are bitten by a local mosquito, they may transmit the disease to someone else,” he explains. Muñoz calls “watch out” for infection with this “local mosquito.” “The more dengue from outside comes to Catalonia, the more chance there is that it will infect one of our local mosquitoes and there will be community transmission. We have to detect it and control it,” he adds.

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If the case of the French tourist is confirmed, it would not be the first case of autochthonous dengue in Catalonia. “In 2018 there were six cases in Catalonia and in 2019 one. Then we entered the covid period and nothing anymore,” notes Muñoz.

Dengue includes symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain, nausea or vomiting. It is usually quite mild, but in 10% of cases complications occur which may lead to e.g. neurological damage.

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