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Hundreds sicken as dengue fever hits Portugal's Madeira

LONDON (Reuters) - Fifty-two people are confirmed to be suffering from dengue fever in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira and another 404 probably have the mosquito-borne disease, health officials said on Thursday.

Two cases of dengue - also called "breakbone fever" because of the severe pain it can cause - have also been reported in France among people returning from Madeira, as well as one each in Britain and Sweden.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which monitors disease in the European Union, said it was not recommending any restrictions on travel to Madeira, but was advising protection against mosquito bites.

While there have been no deaths since the first cases were reported in Madeira three weeks ago, some 40 people have required treatment in hospital. The archipelago lies north of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

The first local transmissions of dengue fever in Europe were recorded in France and Croatia in 2010.

Earlier this year, Greek health officials attributed the death of an 80-year-old man to its first case of dengue since an outbreak there in 1927-28. Greece is suffering from an upsurge in a number of mosquito-borne diseases.

Dengue is a viral infection that can cause a range of symptoms, from mild flu-like illness to more serious illnesses including rashes and bone pain. Severe and potentially deadly forms develop in around five percent of patients.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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