HOLIDAYMAKERS planning on taking a trip to Italy to eke out the last of the holidays have been warned to be weary of a killer bug outbreak.
Six cases of dengue – also known as 'breakbone fever' – have been recorded in northern and central regions of the country.
As of September 1, five people have succumbed to the bug Lombardy and another in Lazio, according to a disease threat report by the European Centre for Disease Control (EDCD).
Cases have jumped up since the watchdog's previous alert on August 25, warning of four dengue cases in Italy.
It's thought that all the cases are autochthonous, meaning they were acquired locally and not through travel abroad.
Dengue is spread through the bites of mosquitoes carrying the sometimes deadly bug.
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Though it's not usually serious, some people can develop serious symptoms that require urgent medical attention, such as severe tummy pain and nausea and blood-tinged vomit or poo.
Italian health authorities reported the first locally acquired dengue case on August 18, in a person from Lombardy who hadn't recently travelled outside the region.
The patient first experienced symptoms on August 3, according to the ECDC.
The alarm was then sounded on August 21 in Lazio, where someone began noticing signs of dengue on August 2.
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"Pending further ongoing microbiological investigations, to date epidemiological investigations have not identified any link between the cases in Lombardy and the case identified in the Lazio region," the ECDC wrote.
Italian health authorities are now racing to control the spread of the bug and prevent further cases.
The ECDC added that "further autochthonous cases may occur in the affected regions, and in Italy overall".
"Surveillance hasbeen strengthened to detect new cases early, identify transmission chains, define areas at risk and quantify the level of risk," it went on.
But the European health watchdog said it isn't unusual for autochthonous dengue cases to pop up during the summer months in parts of southern Europe.
The Aedes albopictus mosquito tends to be responsible for these transmissions, as it has now established itself in large swathes of Europe.
Another two people also fell ill with 'breakbone fever' in France earlier in August.
And Paris was recently fumigated for the first time to stop disease-ridden mosquitoes spreading dengue across the French capital.
It's very common in certain parts of the world, such as Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
However, more recently, the bug has cropped up in Croatia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Madeira.
To prevent dengue fever, you need to reduce the risk of being bitten by a mosquito by spraying bug repellent, covering any exposed skin with lose clothing and sleeping under a net.
The 14 symptoms of dengue fever to know
Dengue won't always cause symptoms, according to NHS guidance.
But if you do experience some, they'll usually come on four to 10 days after you're bitten by an infected mosquito.
The symptoms can be similar to the flu and include:
- a high temperature
- a severe headache
- pain behind your eyes
- muscle and joint pain
- feeling or being sick
- swollen glands
- a blotchy rash made up of flat or slightly raised spots – this can affect large areas of your body
- severe tummy pain
- repeatedly being sick
- fast breathing
- bleeding gums or nose
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- being unable to relax (restlessness)
- blood in your vomit or poo
The latter seven symptoms listed only tend to occur in severe cases of dengue – you should call 999 or go to A&E if you experience them.
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If your symptoms are milder, you can treat them at home by resting, drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol to bring down any temperature.
But the NHS notes that you should avoid anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin, as they can cause bleeding problems if you have dengue.
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