Dengue fever cases surge in France since start of year

Public Health France has warned of an “unprecedented” situation

A tiger mosquito on skin
Dengue fever is spread by tiger mosquitoes
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Cases of dengue fever have risen sharply in France since the start of the year, public health officials warned on Tuesday, April 23. 

There have been 1,679 recorded cases since January 1, compared to 131 cases during the same period in 2023. 

“We are facing an unprecedented situation,” said Caroline Semaille, president of Public Health France, during a press conference. 

Some 20% of cases have been in people over the age of 65, according to public health officials. 

Every case registered this year so far was “imported”, which means those infected were bitten while travelling outside mainland France, most in the French Caribbean regions of Guadeloupe and Martinique. 

Public Health France called for travellers to be vigilant as virus-carrying mosquito season approaches. 

The rise in cases comes as Latin America and the Caribbean battle an unprecedented outbreak of dengue fever, with more than four million cases reported since January 1, three times higher than the same period in 2023, according to Libération

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever is a viral infection spread from mosquitoes to people. It is more common in tropical and sub-tropical climates, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

What are the symptoms of dengue fever?

Most people who get dengue fever will show no symptoms. For those who do show symptoms, the most common resemble the flu, including a fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea and a rash.

Any symptoms appear four to seven days after the person is bitten. 

How serious is dengue fever?

In rare, very severe cases, dengue fever can be fatal. Only around 1% of cases worldwide develop into a severe version of the disease. In these cases, the fever does not lift and potentially fatal haemorrhages can occur. 

There have not been any reports of serious cases or deaths from dengue fever in France. 

There is no specific treatment for dengue fever. Instead the pain symptoms are treated with painkillers such as paracetamol.

Those with severe cases of dengue fever could need to be hospitalised. 

Can dengue be transmitted?

Dengue fever is transmitted by tiger mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites a person infected with dengue fever it can pass the disease onto the next person it bites. 

Some 45 such cases were identified last year in France. Public health officials are trying to prevent these “native” cases as much as possible. 

As the tiger mosquito spreads in France due to increasing temperatures, the risk of transmission rises. 

Read more: MAP: Where tiger mosquitoes have spread to in France

How to avoid dengue fever

The best way to lower your risk of getting dengue fever is to avoid mosquito bites, especially during the day, according to the WHO. 

Read more: Act now to limit tiger mosquitoes at French home this summer

Some 80% of tiger mosquitoes in France are born on private property so homeowners are key in the fight against the insects. 

People can reduce the chance of having tiger mosquitos in their garden by limiting the amount of stagnant water around their properties. Tiger mosquitoes lay their eggs in this water and mosquitoes usually bite close to where they were born.