- by breakdengue

Madeira: Europe’s dengue epidemic

Image of Madeira, location of first Europe dengue epidemic

2012 brought Europe its first dengue epidemic, in Madeira a region of Portugal

When people think of dengue fever,  the words ‘Europe dengue outbreak’ probably don’t come to mind. Latin America and Southeast Asia are usually the first to be hit and are go-to references for the disease. It’s not surprising given that most of the countries where the disease is endemic are located in tropical regions.

But dengue managed to extend its reach, and a Europe dengue epidemic hit Portugal’s, Madeira, in 2012. The archipelago suffered a major outbreak between September 2012 and March 2013.

A 2013 report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shows the full extent of the epidemic: 2,168 probable cases, 1080 confirmed. Thankfully, no fatalities.

Dengue fever cases are rare in Europe. A case was recorded in Germany in 2010 (the disease had been acquired in Croatia) and there was a reported case in Nice, France, but Madeira’s was the biggest outbreak in Europe for some time.

Geographically, Madeira is off the coast of North Africa but as regular flights connect the archipelago with mainland Europe – and given the ability of the disease to travel – swift action was needed to contain the outbreak.

78 patients were diagnosed in other European countries with dengue infection after returning from Madeira

The report says Madeira is well connected with tropical countries where dengue is a major problem so there is no room for complacency.

Update: Learn more about Brazil’s first dengue vaccination program

When doctors first sounded the alarm in 2012, EU specialists arrived from the ECDC on a mission to set up a dengue surveillance system and help local authorities to mount a response against the disease.

Looking back on the Europe dengue outbreak, long under control, the ECDC says ongoing monitoring of the disease and mosquitoes needs to be put in place. It calls for greater efforts to control mosquitoes and encourages in-depth planning for handling even more serious epidemics in the future.

The take-home message for people in Europe is clear. In a globalized world where air travel is commonplace, “tropical” diseases can move between continents with ease.

Dengue is everyone’s problem.  

Check out the Dengue Expo in Rio de Janeiro below 

Apply below to get €10,000 to boost your public health programs’ impact

€10,000 Prize: Help us to Break Dengue