The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is aware of 18 confirmed cases and 191 probable cases of dengue fever in Madeira, Portugal since early October 2012.

This is the first time that dengue fever has been reported in Madeira. Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection and it is important that all travellers should avoid mosquito bites when visiting the region. It can cause a range of clinical symptoms from a mild flu-like illness to a more serious illness including rash and bone pain and can sometimes lead to severe complications.

 There have not been any cases of dengue fever in UK travellers associated with travel to Madeira to date and the risk for travellers and residents will depend on the course of the outbreak in the coming weeks. The health authorities in Madeira are  investigating and implementing control and prevention measures, alongside a public awareness campaign.

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

“To minimise 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.”

Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), said: “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”.

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