Experts have warned that Europe faces a sustained outbreak of dengue fever – the worst in almost 100 years.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said yesterday that the continent is experiencing its first sustained transmission of dengue fever, which is carried by mosquitoes, since the 1920s.
Six Britons have been confirmed as suffering from the disease after contracting it on the holiday island of Madeira.
A further 19 cases have been found elsewhere in Europe among travellers returning from the island.
Since the outbreak began in early October, 1,357 cases of dengue fever have been reported 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, caused by a bite from a mosquito infected with the virus, can cause symptoms from mild flu-like illnesses to more serious problems such as bone pain.
Severe and potentially deadly forms develop in around 5 per cent of patients.
Madeiran health authorities are implementing control and prevention measures and a public awareness campaign after the outbreak, the first recorded on the island.
‘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,’ said an ECDC spokesman.