Dengue fever transmitted by sex ‘for first time’ as case confirmed in Europe

Dengue fever, sometimes called Breakbone Fever because of the intense muscle and joint pains it causes, has for centuries been thought to be transmitted by mosquito bites.

But there have been signs in recent that the viral disease can also be sexually transmitted.

A man in Spain has reportedly contracted dengue despite never having visited any of the tropical countries where it is known to spread.

The man’s partner had recently returned from Cuba and had picked up the virus.

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Madrid public health official Susana Jimenez said: "His partner presented the same symptoms as him – but lighter – around 10 days earlier, and he had previously visited Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Confirming that it appeared to have been sexually transmitted from one man to the other, she added: ”An analysis of their sperm was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba."

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which monitors health and disease across the continent, announced that this case is "to our knowledge, the first sexual transmission of the dengue virus among men who have sex with men."

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There have been two suspected cases of dengue fever having been spread by heterosexual sex before – last year an Italian man in his 50s was diagnosed with the disease after returning from Thailand and an unconfirmed report of the virus being passed from a woman to a man during sex in South Korea.

However, these remain unconfirmed.

Dengue fever is only rarely fatal but can worsen into the more dangerous dengue hemorrhagic fever in older people or patients with weakened immune systems.

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Its symptoms are a sudden, intense fever, severe headaches – typically behind the eyes – and flu-like symptoms including muscle cramps and sickness.

The symptoms are frequently accompanied by a rash and bleeding from the nose or gums.

On average, around 400 million dengue infections occur worldwide each year, with about 96 million of them resulting in illness.

Until recently, it was thought only to be transmitted by mosquitoes, usually of the species Aedes aegypti , which are active during daylight hours.

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