Travelers advised about rare virus in Indian Ocean Islands

The authors of a Case Report in this week's issue of The Lancet warn travellers about exposure to the rare chikungunya virus in Indian Ocean Islands.

Chikungunya virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes fever, joint and muscle pain, headache, and a rash. Symptoms appear 4-7 days after the infecting bite and although the disease is not usually life-threatening, 12% of patients have chronic joint pain three years after the onset of the disease. Between Jan 1, 2006 and March 2, 2006, 77 death certificates were issued in the Indian Ocean Islands, stating chikungunya virus as cause of death.

Researchers at the Medical Outpatient Clinic, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, were called on to advise the public whether to go on planned trips to the Indian Ocean Islands, after treating a woman with chikungunya virus in their institution. The woman, whose symptoms and treatment are detailed in the Case Report, had recently returned from a holiday in Mauritius.

Though the outbreak now seems to be decreasing, the authors advise travellers to take preventive measures against mosquito bites. They also recommend that vulnerable people, such as pregnant women, families with young children and people older than 70 years do not travel to the area at present. "We informed other patients about the magnitude of the risk of contracting the disease and let them decide according to their own judgement," write Patrick Bodenmann and Blaise Genton (Medical Outpatient Clinic, University of Lausanne, Switzerland).

In an accompanying Comment, Devendra Mourya, of the National Institute of Virology in India, writes "the current outbreak seems to be more severe than previous outbreaks, because so many patients have developed complications and deaths have also been reported. The large population is at risk of the illness, especially travellers from the regions where this disease is not prevalent."

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Contact:
Dr Patrick Bodenmann
Medical Outpatient Clinic
Department of Community Medicine and Public Health
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
+41 21 314 4937
patrick.bodenmann@hospvd.ch

Comment:
Dr Devendra Tarachand Mourya
Microbial Containment Complex
National Institute of Virology, Pune, India
+912025893640
mouryadt@vsnl.net


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