January 21, 2009

Dengue epidemic declared in Cairns

At least 167 cases of dengue fever, a dangerous and sometimes fatal mosquito-born illness, have been reported in Cairns on the northeast coast of Australia.

Queensland health officials declared an epidemic Tuesday, The Brisbane Courier-Mail reported.

People are getting infected and getting sicker quicker than any outbreak we've previously seen, said Dr. Linda Selvey, executive director of Population Health Queensland. We're getting quite an escalation of cases to the point where we're calling it an epidemic. We're really concerned. A much higher proportion of cases are needing to go to hospital ... than we have previously seen.

Selvey urged Cairns residents to make sure their property has no pools of standing water where dengue mosquitoes can breed.

Dengue, also known as breakbone fever, is caused by four closely related viruses. The disease is found in the tropics, including northern Australia.