An outbreak of dengue on the Portuguese island of Madeira worsened as infections of the mosquito-borne disease accelerated.
Reported cases of the potentially lethal disease rose to 1,672 as of Nov. 18, Portugal’s health ministry said in a report on its website yesterday. That’s a 23 percent jump in one week, after cases rose 18 percent in the week ending Nov. 11, according to data on the website. The ministry first reported two cases on Oct. 3.
The epidemic is the first sustained outbreak of dengue in Europe since the 1920s, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a Nov. 20 report. Transmission will probably increase as the number of visitors to the island swells during the Christmas holidays, the ECDC said.
Most cases so far are among island residents, though there have been 10 infections among visitors from mainland Portugal, seven from Germany, six from the U.K., two from France and one each from Sweden and Finland, the ministry said. One hundred people have been hospitalized and none have died.
Dengue causes flu-like illness with symptoms such as severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, nausea and rash. In its worst form, it can cause severe bleeding, breathing problems and death. There’s no approved vaccine and no specific treatment.
The disease is caused by one of four viruses carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which has been present on Madeira since at least 2005, according to the Stockholm-based ECDC. There’s no evidence of established populations of the insect on continental Europe, the agency said.
Dengue, entrenched in more than 100 countries, has begun to appear in the continental U.S., with local cases occurring in Key West, Florida, in 2009 and 2010 and in Miami as recently as last week. The virus infects as many as 100 million people a year globally, about 20 times the number of serious influenza cases, according to the World Health Organization.
The incidence of dengue is rising globally as the human population increases and climate change causes mosquitoes to disperse more widely, according to the Geneva-based WHO.
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