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. Crippling Indian Ocean Epidemic Detected in France

The dreaded mosquito at work.
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (AFP) Feb 28, 2006
A crippling epidemic that has swept over the French island Reunion in the Indian Ocean has started to make an appearance in mainland France, with at least 30 cases recorded, a doctor at a Paris hospital said Saturday. Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease whose name is derived from a Swahili word meaning "that which bends up" because of its painful, arthritic-type symptoms that leave victims stooped, has been brought into France.

The disease has enetered the country via people who have visited Reunion, Francois Bricaire, the head of an infectious diseases unit, told Europe 1 radio.

"We have people coming back from Reunion island who have the symptoms of chikungunya and with diagnostics that have confirmed it," he said.

He added that it was "possible" there were other cases in France that have so far gone undetected.

Though not usually considered fatal, the disease has been blamed for directly or indirectly causing the deaths of 77 of the 157,000 people reported to have contracted it in Reunion.

The infection has affected around 20 percent of the French island's population, and cases have also been recorded in a nearby French island of Mayotte, as well as in Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was to visit Reunion on Sunday amid criticism that his government has failed to act swiftly in response to the growing health crisis.

Some 500 French troops have already been deployed to help local health workers spray mosquito breeding areas.

Although alarm bells were being rung in France over the disease, the situation was being overshadowed by confirmation that bird flu had struck in a turkey farm in eastern France -- the first instance of the deadly illness being found on a farm in the European Union.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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People of African Descent More Vulnerable to TB
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A team of scientists has identified a cellular mechanism that may help explain the puzzle of why people of African descent are more susceptible to tuberculosis infection and why, once infected, they develop more severe states of the disease than whites. The team includes researchers from UCLA, and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

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