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Chikungunya Reaches Sri Lanka

An outbreak of the dreaded mosquito-borne fever, Chikunguniya in Sri lanka has been confirmed by health officials. Around 5000 people are feared to be infected.//

Symptoms of Chikungunya are high fever,severe joint and muscular pain, headache, body ache and vomiting in some cases. Health experts say the disease weakens the immune system making people succumb to other ailments.

Sri Lanka is already struggling to control the spread of dengue fever as monsoon rains have created breeding conditions for mosquitoes that carry the disease.

Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe, director of the Epidemiology branch of the Health Department, said 50 cases have been reported and blood samples sent for testing have been confirmed by a Thai and an Indian research lab and 3 labs in Colombo.

'We have got some samples down to Colombo and we handed them over to five different laboratories. All five have reported it as Chikungunya,' Abeysinghe said. 'You could say it is (an epidemic).'

'We have confirmed there is an outbreak going on in Kalmunai, Mannar, Batticaloa, Puttalam and some parts of Colombo city,' he added. 'It is in densely populated pockets.'

'There are several different fevers. Not all fevers reported are Chikungunya,' he said, but bird flu was 'very, very unlikely because there are no respiratory symptoms, no cough or cold or anything like that'.

Dr. A. Ketheeswaran, the director of provincial health services for Jaffna, said 'In Jaffna, this viral fever which has the symptoms of Chikungunya is spreading very fast. I find that more than 5,000 people have been infected.'

Jaffna residents are now dependant on rations shipped in from the south, and medicines and food are in demand.Local residents said the doctors recommend Paracetamol to control fever, but stocks in most shops had run out. They are cut off from the main land by rebel lines.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and P revention (CDC) says no deaths caused by Chikungunya have been recorded so far in scientific literature. Chikungunya, means 'that which bends up'in Swahili and the virus was first isolated in the blood of a patient with fever in Tanzania in 1953, the CDC said.

'With the ongoing rains, such diseases could reach an epidemic proportion by next month unless drastic measures are taken to clean the environment,' said Pradeep Kariyawasam, who heads the capital Colombo's health department.

Sri Lanka's Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, has made an appeal to the public to prevent the spread of both the diseases by keeping their surroundings clean.

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