Warning of increased cases of dengue and chikungunya fever due to tiger mosquito bites

Alert for rapid increase in dengue cases in Europe And other infectious diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as West Nile virusto. The notice was issued by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which was discovered “Continued upward trend” In the number of cases imported from endemic areas, but also from Local outbreak One of these infections spreads among neighbors once the virus is established in one of the European regions.

They were counted in Catalonia 150 cases of dengue fever Imported between January and May of this year, when In 2023 there were 233 Throughout the year, according to data presented on Wednesday by Public Health Minister Carmen Cabezas.

Since 2018, dengue cases have nearly tripled compared to last year. Cases of the disease have also increased, but much less Chikungunya – Last year, nearly 50 cases were counted between confirmed and probable – and those of Zikawith 15 between confirmed and probable.

Cabezas warned that these infections may increase during the summer, when the risk of infection with arboviruses increases.Viruses transmitted by arthropods such as insects or spiders–, due to the increase in mosquito bites as well tourismwhich leads to travelers arriving or returning home after vacation carrying the virus, after being infected with it in the affected areas.

If another mosquito bites them here while they still have the virus in their blood, they can transmit it and infect family or neighbors if they are bitten by the same mosquito, so the outbreak, if it spreads, ends up being local.

That’s why peace The fight against tiger mosquitoes will be intensified And jointly to stop the spread of tropical diseases, within Virus monitoring and control protocol Which can be transmitted by insects. the Tiger mosquitoWhich was declining until March, and is a carrier of diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, or the Zika virus, and Common mosquito West Nile virus and malaria.

Special caution must also be exercised, Cabezas said. With birds and horsesInfected mosquitoes can transmit the disease to these animals.

Mild effects in 95% of cases

The head of the Epidemiology Department at the Clinic Hospital, Anthony Trella, explained on Wednesday, on the “Tot es mou” program on TV3, that in general, The virus displays benign images –com Fever And one Discomfort Similar to influenza – and that these local chains of transmission tend to be very short.

For 90 to 95% of people, dengue virus causes a benign diseaseWith fever and flu-like symptoms. “Complications, which exist as in any disease, are very rare.”

But in Italy, Anthony Trella explained, an outbreak of the disease was detected that affected more than a hundred residents of an entire town.

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A platform to find out if we have mosquitoes nearby (ACN/CEAB-CSIC BLANES)

In case West Nile fever“In more serious cases, damage may involve the central nervous system, such as meningitis or encephalitis, but it is very rare, less than 5% of cases,” Trela ​​warns. He adds that in Spain, some were discovered in Andalusia, where patients had to be admitted to the intensive care unit due to these rare complications.

There is a vaccine, but immunity is complicated

Israel MolinaIn an interview with TV3, the head of the International Tropical Diseases Unit at Val d’Hebron Hospital adds another element to take into account: Risk of reinfectionBecause infection with it, unlike other diseases, does not lead to immunity, but quite the opposite.

He says immunity to dengue is “very complex”:

“However, a single attack of dengue requires control of symptoms, such as fever or joint pain Exposure to various infections can lead to medical complications“Especially in children, the elderly, or people suffering from other diseases, who can develop some kind of complications.”

Dr. Molina explains that when dengue fever is diagnosed, “the symptoms are treated and the patient is expected to feel better and his immunity will recover.” And remember that Hello dengue vaccine Available in pharmacies: “It is a good measure to prevent the disease, and it is recommended for travelers who have risk factors for the disease or have already been exposed and go to countries where this virus is spreading.”

Catalonia is the only autonomous community that has doses of the dengue vaccine in the public health system for people who have had the disease and are traveling to areas at particular risk. Getting the vaccine doesn’t mean we have to relax against mosquito bites, Molina warns, because the vaccine only protects against a very specific type of dengue, but not all of it.

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Detecting indigenous cases is a major challenge

It is easier to detect when you arrive from a tropical country than to find it locally in the population, warns this specialist, because the symptoms are very similar to those of influenza, and if you have not traveled to any risk area, a serology test will not usually be ordered for this virus. Of course, he explains, when asked All control mechanisms are activated automatically Alert to find potential focus — How to analyze mosquitoes in the area and follow up on people nearby with symptoms –:

“The problem with not diagnosing the disease is that from one case there are secondary cases that end up being original.”

“There is a small risk of local dengue infection, but we have surveillance and detection mechanisms to identify it and control the emergence of new cases or those spread by mosquitoes,” explains Israel Molina.

A “brutal epidemic” in some Latin American countries

“There are brutal epidemics of dengue fever in different parts of the world, such as in Brazil,” warns Anthony Trella. Other Latin American countries too, such as Paraguay and Argentina, are facing an almost unprecedented wave of dengue fever, with three million people infected in the first three months of 2024 alone.

“This year, cases of dengue and other arboviruses in Latin America have multiplied by four,” agrees Israel Molina, explaining that the fact that there are much more cases than expected makes us more vigilant.

Currently, ECDC has more than 7.5 million cases of dengue fever in 73 countries Of the world we are in this year.

Last year, the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention detected 130 locally acquired dengue cases within the EU and EEA and 4,900 imported cases. For West Nile virus, 713 locally acquired human cases were reported in nine EU countries in 2023, 63 of them were fatal.

Prevention and rapid detection and do not move if you are infected

Fumigation It is not completely effective, because mosquitoes breed very quickly in environments with high humidity, and authorities in areas with the largest outbreaks are keeping people on alert because Monitor and remove standing water In gardens and balconies, in addition to standing · Anti-mosquito repellents, long clothes Cover the body well and hang it Mosquito nets To doors and windows. And they ask too Don’t move too much if they are injuredAdvice Anthony Trella also offers:

“Some travelers may return injured from a trip, and if you have just arrived and are not feeling well, You should stay home and wear repellents So you don’t get bitten by mosquitoes and don’t spread them to your neighbors.”

Increase in international travel In areas where these diseases are endemic, especially ascension Temperatures Given the climate emergency, they prefer to spread and increase the risk of infection due to the bites of mosquitoes like the tiger, which are already present in our home.

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The tiger mosquito has already taken up residence in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain, according to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been introduced in Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Slovakia.

The spread of these mosquitoes has also been aided by international transport of goods, especially the trade in tires or bamboo plants.

A worker disinfects a field in a shock plan against mosquito pests (ACN/Alaurin de la Torre City Council)

Climate change exacerbates the problem

“Europe is already seeing how climate change is creating more favorable conditions for invasive mosquitoes to spread into areas where they were not before and to infect more people with diseases such as dengue fever,” warned Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He added that increased international travel to dengue-endemic countries “will also increase the risk of imported cases, and will certainly increase the risk of local outbreaks as well.”

For this reason, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control insists Take personal protection measures to the maximum extentalong with measures Vector control –Like the tiger and the common mosquito–, Rapid detection Cases, monitoring risk areas and conducting further research and public awareness.

A platform developed by the Center for Advanced Studies in Blanes called Mosquito alert It lets you see the whereabouts of five mosquito species, including the tiger mosquito, so you know if they’re near you.

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