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Mauritius PM urges people to fight epidemic

Mauritius PM has called on the population to help fight a crippling mosquito-borne virus which has swept across several countries in the Indian Ocean region.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 16:40 IST
Reuters
Reuters
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Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam has called on the population to help fight a crippling mosquito-borne virus which has swept across several countries in the Indian Ocean region.

"Chikungunya" fever, for which there is no known cure or vaccine, has been spreading through islands off the southeast coast of Africa since January, infecting more than 150,000 people in Reunion, Seychelles and Mauritius.

Mauritius has 1,174 confirmed cases and 4,177 suspected cases, and authorities say they are awaiting tests after the death of a 33-year-old man last week.

After chairing a national committee comprising of government officials, private sector, local charities and community groups to coordinate efforts to fight the epidemic, Ramgoolam said he expected the number of cases to rise in the coming days.

He said it was essential that the island's 1.2 million people mobilized themselves to help fight the epidemic.

"All Mauritian citizens should be concerned by this problem and everyone should be engaged in fighting this virus," Ramgoolam said on Monday.

The disease, first recognised in Tanzania in 1952, is marked by high fever and severe rashes. The World Health Organisation says it does not believe the tropical virus is fatal, but health experts say it can weaken the immune system, allowing other deadly diseases to set in.

Authorities blame the spread of the disease on heavy rains in recent months and have launched a countrywide public awareness campaign and are fumigating areas where cases of the viral infection have been found.

Ramgoolam said he was exempting duties on mosquito-repellent to make it more affordable to people and was considering exempting duties on fogging machines and insecticides.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 15:06 IST