France, rest of Europe could see more local dengue outbreaks as world warms

France has been seeing a growing number of local outbreaks of dengue in what experts say may be climate change increasing the spread of a deadly tropical disease in countries with colder climates.

The Agence Regionale de Sante, France’s health policy agency, has reported three separate local dengue outbreaks between June and September 2022.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), a biomedical research and data institute in Bethesda, Maryland, on the other hand, counted 65 cases in nine “transmission events” in the French regions of Occitanie, Paca, and Corsica from January to October 2022.

In one case study to be presented this week to the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Copenhagen, a 44-year-old Briton contracted dengue while travelling near Nice in September 2022.

She showed symptoms of dengue – fever, rashes, muscle pain and headache – a day after arriving in Britain from France, where she stayed with her family who all had the same symptoms.

‘Emerging health threat’

Dr Owain Donnelly, one of the authors of the report “Dengue in the south of France: an emerging health threat?”, said the woman’s case was part of the September 2022 outbreak that “highlights the rapidly changing epidemiology of dengue”.

“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 outbreaks,” he said.

Dengue – also nicknamed breakbone fever – is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes that also spread Zika and chikungunya.

Worldwide each year, there are up to 400 million cases of dengue infections. About 100 million are severe enough to cause symptoms, which may include fever, debilitating joint pain and internal bleeding.

There are an estimated 10,000 deaths from dengue every year.

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