Well, no… of course, he didn’t. But Ronaldo’s star power may have indirectly contributed to the arrival of dengue fever in his hometown of Funchal, Madeira. Dr. Ana Clara Silva, Vice President at the Institute of Health and Social Affairs of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, told the ISNTD Bites conference in London that the dengue outbreak on the island can be linked to tourists from South America.
He is also a major tourist attraction
Such is the demand to know more about CR7 (as he likes to style himself) that the Real Madrid player opened a museum in Madeira to tell his life story.
The Portuguese island suffered a serious outbreak in 2012 with thousands of suspected cases reported and several European vacationers being diagnosed after returning to mainland Europe.
Madeira has long been a tourist haven thanks to its climate, food, and hospitality.But one of its more recent claims to fame is that it became the home of the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015 winner himself – Ronaldo – who is said to visit the island several times a year and reportedly does stellar charitable work.
So what’s the link between dengue and Ronaldo?
Researchers in Madeira tracing the origins of the 2012 outbreak have followed the trail all the way back to Venezuela. It would appear that a charter flight for tourists brought dengue and the mosquito that infects humans with the virus.
Tourists may have come for Ronaldo memorabilia but Madeira was left with a viral souvenir it would rather forget.
Dr. Silva said genetic research confirms the disease was imported from South America. “We first noticed the vectors [mosquitoes] in 2005, and in 2012 the virus came from Venezuela. The virus also came to Madeira from Venezuela,” she said.
Many South American tourists flock to Madeira for sun and seafood, but plenty come to pay homage to Ronaldo – a kind of football fanatic’s pilgrimage.
The surge in dengue cases led to 2,167 people being infected. In the wake of the epidemic, which is now under control, Madeira public health officials monitor imported cases of dengue very closely.
Is low-cost travel spurring dengue outbreaks?
“Tourism is the main industry – and a risk factor,” says Dr. Silva. “We are also affected by climate change with warmer temperatures, and are experiencing urbanization in Funchal where most cases were reported in 2012 and 2013.”
Dengue is a notifiable disease in Madeira, which means that doctors and clinics must report any suspected cases to health authorities so that they can respond quickly and contain potential epidemics.
Experts in Madeira have stepped up disease surveillance and mosquito control in recent years. They investigate mosquito breeding sites – such as storm drains – and run regular education campaigns in the media.
“We go door-to-door to educate people about clearing storm drains which can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and we have 170 teachers working with us to raise awareness among children,” says Dr. Silva.
So far, despite a handful of suspected imported cases, there have been no repeats of the short but severe outbreak that Madeira suffered in 2012 and 2013. And Cristiano Ronaldo is perfectly safe.
However… his Brazilian namesake has not been so lucky. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima – also known as Ronaldo and also a three-time winner of the World Footballer of the Year – contracted dengue fever while on holiday in Brazil. Thankfully, he made a full recovery.
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