Doctors who treated a British woman after she caught “break-bone fever” in the south of France have warned climate change could cause outbreaks as far north as the UK.
The 44-year-old woman was infected with dengue, a mosquito-borne disease, while visiting family near Nice last September and developed a fever, muscle pain, headache and rash.
She went to A&E when she returned to the UK.
An urgent sample was sent to the Rare Imported Pathogens Laboratory, which confirmed she had acute dengue virus infection.
The woman, who hasn’t been named by doctors, didn’t need treatment.
Her case was highlighted at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
While 75% of infected people have no symptoms, 1% to 5% develop potentially fatal severe dengue.
The joints can be so painful that people feel as if their bones have been broken.
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Dr Owain Donnelly from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London, said: “This individual was part of an outbreak of over 30 locally transmitted cases in the south of France in 2022, which highlights the rapidly changing epidemiology of dengue.”
The disease is more commonly seen in people who have visited Asia, South America and Africa, where the virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes.
But one species, Aedes albopictus or the Asian Tiger mosquito, is now widespread in southern Europe.
It has also been detected by authorities at UK ports several times in recent years, but so far no local populations have been established.
Between June and September 2022, the Agence Regionale de Santé in France reported three separate outbreaks of the disease.
“With climate change, particularly hotter temperatures and more rainfall, and increasing global trade and tourism, we may see more parts of Europe with the right combination of factors for dengue outbreak,” warned Dr Donnelly.
The World Health Organisation warned last week that half the global population is now at risk of dengue, with an estimated 100 million to 400 million infections each year.