PUBLIC HEALTH

Fourth case of imported Zika virus detected in Spain

Man made a full recovery, but authorities warn there could be homegrown infections soon

Murcia's regional health chief, Manuel Molina Boix, speaks to reporters.
Murcia's regional health chief, Manuel Molina Boix, speaks to reporters.Marcial Guillén / EFE

A fourth case of the Zika virus has been detected in Spain.

The patient is a man from Lorca (Murcia) who had traveled to the Latin American nation of Honduras, regional health chief Manuel Molina said on Tuesday.

All three other cases (two in Barcelona and one in Valladolid) also involved people who traveled abroad and contracted the mosquito-borne illness. All of them have since been discharged from hospital.

The Spanish Health Ministry has said that it expects to see up to 250 cases of imported Zika virus a year

The Murcia man complained about a rash, and explained that he had recently been to Honduras, leading doctors at Rafael Méndez Hospital to suspect that he was suffering from Zika, said Molina. A tissue sample sent to the National Microbiology Center confirmed the suspicion on Monday.

The patient has made a full recovery, but was asked to stay confined to his house due to the risk of infection. This is not because the disease is communicable from person to person, but because there was a small chance that he might be bitten by a mosquito, and then this insect could bite someone else and infect them, too.

The Zika virus comes from Africa, where it was first identified in humans in 1952. Last year it reached Latin America, where it has been detected in 25 countries and territories according to the latest count.

A female tiger mosquito, which transmits the dengue fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus.
A female tiger mosquito, which transmits the dengue fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus.James Gathany

Symptoms are generally minor, and up to 80 percent of infected people are unaware of their condition. Patients may experience something like a flu, as well as a rash. The incubation period is under a week.

The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, very often the Aedes aegypti, better known as the tiger mosquito because of its stripes.

This is the same insect that transmits dengue fever and chikungunya disease, and which has been proliferating along the Mediterranean in recent years, as well as in the northern regions of Aragón and the Basque Country.

Because of this, Murcia health chief Molina noted that it is not unthinkable that Spain could develop homegrown cases of the Zika virus in future.

The Spanish Health Ministry has said that it expects to see up to 250 cases of imported Zika virus a year, and also confirmed that there could be Spanish cases in future because of the proliferation of tiger mosquitoes.

English version by Susana Urra.

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