HEALTH SCARE

First case of chikungunya virus infection in Spain detected

Health authorities on alert after Valencia man contracts disease from infected mosquito

A female tiger mosquito, which can spread the chikungunya virus.
A female tiger mosquito, which can spread the chikungunya virus.JAMES GATHANY

Spanish health authorities are watching out for potential new cases of the chikungunya virus after a man in the Valencia region became the first recorded patient to contract the illness after being bitten by an infected mosquito in Spain. Until now, all Spanish cases of the tropical illness had been contracted abroad.

The victim, a 60-year-old resident of Gandia, Valencia province, developed the symptoms while he was on a trip to France in July, but health officials are certain that the disease-carrying insect bit him before he left home.

The unstoppable expansion of Aedes albopictus, also known as the tiger mosquito because of its striped body, across several Spanish regions, has put health authorities on alert, particularly in Valencia.

In Spain, the tiger mosquito was first detected in Catalonia in 2004 and it has since been expanding down the Mediterranean coast

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has also issued a risk assessment following the Gandia case, noting that “this is the first chikungunya case reported from Spain without travel history to endemic areas.”

The report adds that the tiger mosquito “has been present in Valencia since 2013, and imported cases of chikungunya have been reported from the city of Gandía where the climate is conducive to chikungunya transmission.”

The ECDC warns that “Europe is vulnerable to autochthonous transmission of the chikungunya virus in areas where mosquitoes capable of carrying the disease are established and where climate is conducive to chikungunya transmission.”

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The Valencia regional health department has launched an epidemiological investigation to find breeding grounds for Aedes albopictus and avoid further transmission of the disease, which typically causes joint pain and fever, and has no known specific treatment. The infected man has now recovered from the illness, regional health chiefs noted.

The tiger mosquito was first detected in Spain in 2004 in Catalonia and has since been expanding down the Mediterranean coast.

Last year there were 266 recorded cases of chikungunya fever in Spain, all imported, according to the National Epidemiology Center. So far this year, 86 people have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne disease, 18 of them in the Valencia region, according to figures released by the Valencia health department.

English version by Susana Urra