Medics fly in to tackle Cape Verde dengue outbreak

PRAIA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - International medical teams have landed in Cape Verde to fight a dengue fever epidemic that has killed six and is suspected to have hit 12,000 in a country of just over 400,000 inhabitants, authorities said on Monday.

France, Portugal, Switzerland and Thailand have flown in 29 medical staff with equipment and medication following an international appeal for assistance issued last week by the West African island state and the World Health Organisation.

"In the last 24 hours, 656 cases have occurred of which 466 were registered in the capital Praia," Maria de Lurdes Monteiro, director of Cape Verde's National Epidemiological Surveillance Centre, told Reuters.

There are presently 76 confirmed cases of haemorrhagic fever which is the most lethal form of dengue, Monteiro said. In its normal form dengue has symptoms similar to malaria.

Dengue fever is transmitted by the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes. It is the first occurrence of an epidemic in the archipelago. The first cases were reported at the end of September and the disease has now spread across all the islands.

"There is no treatment and no preventive vaccine for dengue fever," Dr Oussmane Faye of the Institut Pasteur laboratories in Dakar, told Reuters.

"The main method of fighting it is by destroying the vector which is often located in used tyres, abandoned tins and other trash," Faye said.

Over the weekend the Cape Verde government called for a national clean up campaign to eliminate all possible reproduction areas for the Aedes mosquitoes.