Investigator warns of the risk of dengue reaching Portugal in addition to imported cases

Doctor and researcher Marcelo Urbano Ferreira warned today of the risk of an increase in the number of imported dengue cases in Portugal and its introduction into Portugal, as transmitting mosquitoes already exist in this country.

“If there are infected human beings, there is potentially a risk of introducing dengue into mainland Portugal, which has not yet been recorded”, said the researcher from the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT) to Lusa, regarding the high number of infections that is registered in Brazil, which this year has already exceeded two million cases, a record number.

Marcelo Urbano Ferreira indicated that the number of cases registered in mainland Portugal — all imported — does not exceed a dozen per year and refers to “travelers who, in some way, exposed themselves to transmission outside the country”.

The risk, however, is present through “infected people and climatic or environmental conditions for the proliferation of mosquitoes capable of transmitting the dengue virus. In this case, unfortunately not only Portugal, but several countries in southern Europe already have potential vectors of dengue adapted to local conditions”.

“The risk exists and is of two types. We have Brazilians who live in Portugal, going to Brazil and eventually returning infected and Portuguese who, for tourism or other reasons, travel to areas of high transmission”, he added.

The researcher considers that “what helps Portugal and other countries in the northern hemisphere is that, at a time when there are major outbreaks in the southern hemisphere, the abundance of mosquitoes here [in Portugal] — as it is a colder time of the year – – is smaller. This helps a lot, but dengue transmission is not restricted to the southern hemisphere, quite the opposite; we have several countries in Asia, in the northern hemisphere, with a large number of dengue cases.”

“Of course, in the case of Portugal, what is happening in Latin America and particularly in Brazil draws a lot of attention because of the ties and frequent mobility of the population between these two regions, but there is a relatively large number of Portuguese people who go on business or in tourism to countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, countries where there is dengue transmission in the season corresponding to summer in Portugal, the summer of the northern hemisphere”, he added.

The expert defends, as an individual prevention, the vaccine that has been available since the end of last year and which is “the most recent weapon”.

And he suggests other measures, such as the use of repellents and clothing with long sleeves to avoid mosquito bites, which, in this case, have daytime habits.