Mosquito, stock image: PA
Eighteen people are suffering from dengue fever on the Portuguese island of Madeira and another 191 could have the mosquito-borne disease, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has confirmed.
The Daily Mail reports that heath authorities in Madeira are applying control and prevention measures alongside a public awareness campaign following the first outbreak ever recorded on the popular holiday island.
There have been no recommended restrictions on travel to Madeira from the European Centre for Disease Prevention (ECDC), but tourists are being advised to protect themselves against mosquito bites, particularly during the day when dengue-carrying mosquitoes are most active.
The disease, which mostly occurs in South East Asia and the Western Pacific, has spread in recent years due to globalisation, and can cause clinical symptoms, from mild flu-like illness to more serious rashes and bone pain, which could lead to severe complications.
Travel-associated infection expert at the HPA, Jane Jones, explained that dengue fever cannot be passed from person to person and it only occurs when bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus.
In a statement Jane advised: '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.
Authorities in geographical areas neighbouring Madeira, such as the Canary Islands and other EU member states, were advised by the ECDC to consider stepping up surveillance of disease-spreading Aedes mosquito populations and assess the risk they pose.
Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), told the Daily Mail: '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.
'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.'
There has been a thirty-fold jump in dengue cases worldwide in the past 50 years. In Europe, the first local transmissions of the disease were recorded in France and Croatia in 2012. Earlier this year, Greek health officials attributed the death of an 80-year-old man to its first case of dengue since an outbreak in 1927-28.
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