Tropical fever passed sexually from tourist to partner

Red health alert

A Spanish hospital has reported what is believed to be the first case in Europe of someone contracting dengue fever through having sexual relations with an infected partner, writes David Ing

The affected man had not visited any risk area, but his male companion had been to two Caribbean islands and presented the same symptoms, according to the Madrid regional health authority. It is believed to be only the second case of its kind to be reported. A similar incident has previously occurred in South Korea, the Madrid Region’s Directorate General of Public Health added, but in that case it was through sexual relations between a heterosexual couple.

The authority said that the man involved, described only as ‘young’, had not been out of Spain for a period of 45 days before the symptoms began to emerge. This meant it was registered initially by the capital’s Ramón y Cajal hospital as an autochthonous case. His partner, meanwhile, had developed similar symptoms 10 days earlier, after returning from a trip that took in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The link between the two was confirmed from analyses carried out by the laboratories of the National Centre for Microbiology.

Although dengue-carrying mosquitoes are becoming more widespread around the warmer coastal regions of southern Europe, Madrid is situated at more than 600 metres above sea level and is 350 kilometres from the nearest beach area. The health authority said checks had shown no evidence of the insect’s presence at the men’s home or at any of the places they frequented. Then, when the two men acknowledged that they had had unprotected sex in September, the hospital decided to take semen samples. These showed up positive, and it was ascertained that they were of the same strain of dengue as one currently recorded as circulating in Cuba.

Dengue fever, which is generally transmitted through being bitten by the Aedes mosquito, is endemic in warmer regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia and Africa.