Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico to get world's first dengue fever vaccine

Aedis Aegypti mosquito Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito

Mexico has approved the use of the world's first vaccine against dengue fever, the health ministry announced.

The deadliest form of the mosquito-borne disease kills 22,000 people per year, according to the World Health Organisation.

French pharmaceutical company Sanofi said it developed the vaccine, Dengvaxia, over the past 20 years.

Some 40,000 people will receive the treatment in Mexico in an initial phase.

"With this decision, Mexico moves ahead of all other countries, including France, to tackle the spread of this virus," said the health ministry in a statement.

'Public health history'

Dengue fever affects more than 400 million people a year across the world, mainly urban areas in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

It is a leading cause of hospital admissions in most Latin American and Asian countries, says the WHO. Most of the victims are children.

The vaccine will be available only to children over the age of nine, and adults under 49 who live in areas where the disease is endemic.

It is designed to prevent four types of dengue virus, said Sanofi.

"It's a very important moment in the history of public health," the head of Sanofi Vaccines Division, Olivier Charmeil, told the AFP new agency.

The company said it spent more than $1.6bn (£1bn) developing and creating the treatment.

The symptoms of dengue fever are similar to those of a severe flu.

It is transmitted from person to person by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads chikungunya, zika fever and other diseases.

The first cases of dengue were registered in the 1950s in Thailand and the Philippines.

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