Thursday 14 December 2017

Dengue fever warning in Madeira after hundreds of suspected cases reported in recent weeks

A British holidaymaker is recovering in hospital after contracting dengue fever on a trip to the Portuguese island.

The Briton, who has not been named, picked up the virus in Madeira, where up to 456 cases have been reported in recent weeks.

The outbreak prompted the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the UK to issue a warning earlier this month to travellers, urging them to avoid mosquito bites when visiting the popular island.

Although hundreds of travellers contract dengue fever every year, the majority do so in tropical countries such as Thailand and India. The disease had not been reported in Madeira until recently – now 52 cases have been confirmed and a further 404 are suspected. Aside from the Briton, three other holidaymakers, two from France and one from Sweden, are also thought to have caught the disease on the island.

The mosquito-borne virus cannot be passed from person to person - infection occurs only after being bitten by the Aedes mosquito carrying the virus. Symptoms range from a mild fever to a more serious illness, including a rash and bone pain - the disease is also known as breakbone fever. Severe complications, such as liver failure and dangerously low blood pressure, may occur in a minority of cases.

Dr Jane Jones, a travel-associated infection expert at the HPA, said there are no preventative medicines or vaccinations to combat the virus.

“To minimise the risk of being bitten it is advisable to wear appropriate clothing to cover up - such as long sleeve tops and trousers, and to use insect repellents,” she added. “Anyone who develops a fever or flu-like symptoms within two weeks of returning from a trip to Madeira should seek medical advice from their GP.”

Oliver Smith

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