Dengue cases reported in Portugal

The United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency reported 18 confirmed cases of dengue fever on the Madeira archipelago in Portugal and 191 probable cases since early October.

The reported cases mark the first time that the mosquito-borne viral infection has been reported in Madeira.

Health authorities in Madeira are looking into the cases and are implementing prevention and control measures along with a public awareness campaign.

"Dengue fever cannot be passed from person to person and infection occurs after being bitten by the Aedes mosquito carrying the virus," Jane Jones, a travel-associated infection expert at the HPA, said. "To minimize 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."

Dengue can cause multiple clinical symptoms, including a mild flu-like illness. It can also cause more serious symptoms such as rash, bone pain and severe complications.

"There is no specific preventive medicine or vaccination against dengue fever and prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites particularly around dusk and dawn when the day biting mosquitoes are most active," Dipti Patel, the joint director of the National Travel Health Network and Center, said. "Anyone who develops a fever or flu-like symptoms within two weeks of returning from a trip to Madeira should seek medical advice from NHS Direct or their GP."

Approximately 2.5 billion people worldwide are at risk of acquiring dengue fever, according to the World Health Organization.