GENEVA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people are thought to have caught dengue fever in an unprecedented outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease on the French overseas territory of La Reunion, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
Authorities in the popular Indian Ocean tourist destination notified WHO of the outbreak in March 2018, since when 50,000 probable cases have been reported, including 22,000 so far this year, the global health agency said in a statement.
Last year, 6,942 of the suspected cases were confirmed to be dengue, a 6,000% increase from 2017. So far this year, there have been 7,700 confirmed cases of the disease, which causes flu-like illness and can kill.
“The upsurge of confirmed and probable cases reported in 2018 is unprecedented,” said the WHO.
There is no specific treatment for dengue, but with early detection and access to proper medical care fewer than 1% of sufferers die from the disease.
WHO said 14 people have died in the Reunion outbreak since 2018.
Globally, the number of dengue cases dropped in 2017-2018, but there has been a sharp increase in 2019, especially in Australia, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Reunion has a population of 866,500, according to French official statistics.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne