Director of the national Centre for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies Fernando Simón said on Tuesday that the country predicts to have 200 cases this year of the zika virus that has been sweeping Latin America.
This would be about ten to 20 cases per month with a greater increase in summer months when more people are travelling to and from countries most affected by the mosquito-borne virus, according to Europa Press.
Four cases have so far been reported in Spain, each of whom had travelled to countries where the virus has spread by mosquito.
The 200 cases predicted for this year are expected to come from those exposed to mosquitoes outside of Spain, but Simón also acknowledged that there could be a potential risk of spread within the country because one of the mosquitoes that may be able to spread the virus lives here.
The Aedes albopictus mosquito, or Asian tiger mosquito, lives in Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, Andalusia, the Baleares Islands, Aragon and the Basque Country. It has not been known to spread the zika virus, but there is concern among experts that it could.
“In Huesca, this vector [the Asian tiger mosquito] has also been identified and in a province of the Basque Country, but in limited areas so that we deduce it is not considered a risk right now, though we do not know how it will extend. At least initially, the risk is in the Mediterranean basin,” Simón said.
He added that officials are working to monitor the Asian tiger mosquito and that the risk to Spain is still “minimal”.
A Spanish man last summer contracted chikungunya virus, which is similar to zika virus and spread by either the Aedes aegypti or tiger mosquito. The man had no history of travelling outside of Europe and it was the first case of the someone being struck by the sickness without visiting an infected area.
The World Health Organization declared a state of emergency on Monday over zika virus, transmitted to humans by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, most commonly found in North and South America.
Alarm has been raised worldwide since a massive outbreak started last spring in Brazil.
Symptoms tend to be mild, including a rash, fever and headaches. But experts have observed a potential link between pregnant mothers with the virus and their babies being born with brain damage. There is currently no vaccine.
Spanish officials have warned that pregnant women planning to travel to affected areas should consult a doctor.