Europe is experiencing its first sustained outbreak of dengue fever since the 1920s, with more than 1,300 people infected with the mosquito-borne disease on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that 25 cases of the disease – also called “breakbone fever” because of the severe pain it can cause – have been found elsewhere in Europe in holiday-makers returning home.
Cases have so far been diagnosed in Britain, mainland Portugal, Germany, Sweden and France.
“Given the dramatic expansion of endemic dengue transmission globally over the last 20 to 30 years, and the high number of visitors to Madeira, the outbreak is large and constitutes a significant public health event,” the ECDC said.
Since the outbreak began in early October, 1,357 cases of dengue fever have been reported by health workers in Madeira, including 669 laboratory- confirmed cases and 688 probable cases.
Eighty-nine people have received hospital treatment but there have been no deaths so far.
Dengue is a viral infection that can cause a range of symptoms, from mild flu-like illness to more serious illnesses including rashes and bone pain.