Japan tackles first dengue fever outbreak in 70 years

'The epicentre of the outbreak': The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Tokyo's Yoyogi Park

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Japan is battling its first outbreak of dengue fever in almost 70 years, with at least 22 people confirmed as being infected.

The health ministry said the cases were believed to have been contracted by visitors to Tokyo's popular Yoyogi Park.

An outbreak of dengue fever was last recorded in Japan in 1945.

The tropical disease, which is spread by mosquitoes, causes symptoms like high fever and severe joint pain.

Severe cases may require hospital treatment and can occasionally develop into a potentially lethal complication called severe dengue, according to the World Health Organisation.

A board warns visitors about mosquitoes at Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo, Japan, on 1 September 2014 Signs warning tourists and locals about mosquitoes have been placed at Tokyo's Yoyogi Park
A worker hits a stake to fix a fence around a pond at Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo, Japan, on 1 September 2014 Sections of Tokyo's Yoyogi park have been cordoned off since the reported cases

Japan sees imported cases of dengue fever each year, mostly from tourists who catch it while travelling to tropical regions, its health ministry said.

Domestic mosquitoes could have also picked up the dengue virus from tourists and passed it on, the ministry said.

Now the government is working to tackle the park thought to be the focus of the outbreak.

New warning signs have been put up and teams of workers in white overalls and masks have descended to spray insecticide and drain its ornamental ponds, says the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo.

The spread of the disease has been helped by an exceptionally wet summer but authorities say the outbreak should be killed off by the onset of autumn weather, our correspondent adds.

There are no vaccines or drugs against dengue but medical experts said avoiding mosquito bites was the best precaution.

A government hotline for dengue fever queries was also set up last week.

The disease is common in more than 100 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

At least 87 people died from dengue fever in Malaysia this year. An epidemic in India last year killed more than 100 people and inundated hospitals with patients.

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