With more than 1,300 cases of dengue fever reported in Madeira since early October, Europe is dealing with its first sustained dengue fever transmission since the 1920s.
The mosquito-borne disease was found elsewhere in Europe in travelers returning from the Portuguese archipelago, including France, Sweden, Portugal, Britain and Germany. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control found that 25 cases of dengue were present in Europe outside of Madeira in a recent assessment, Reuters reports.
“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, according to Reuters.
Health workers in Madeira reported 1,357 cases of dengue fever since early October, including 669 laboratory confirmed cases and 688 probable cases. The spread of the disease, also known as breakbone fever, caused 89 hospitalizations but no deaths.
Dengue is a viral infection that can cause mild flu-like illness or more serious symptoms such as rashes and bone pain. Severe and potentially lethal forms of the disease develop in approximately five percent of patients.
The ECDC recommended that local authorities protect against mosquito bites with disinfection and control of mosquitoes at ports and airports. The center also suggested that authorities in areas neighboring Madeira, including the Canary Islands, and increase surveillance of Aedes aegypti mosquito populations to assess the risk of dengue spreading, Reuters reports.