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Friday, January 20, 2006

Crippling disease sweeps Indian Ocean island

PARIS (AFP) - Doctors on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion are battling an epidemic of a crippling mosquito-borne disease that has no known cure, French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said.

About 7,200 cases of "chikungunya" had been recorded, including 1,600 cases last week alone, the minister told the French upper house.

"It is a major public-health issue," he told senators.

Chikungunya is Swahili for "that which bends up" and refers to the stooped posture of those afflicted by the non-fatal disease for which there is no known vaccine or cure.

Authorities on the volcanic island east of Madagascar, a French overseas department with a population of 760,000, have earmarked 600,000 euros (720,000 dollars) to fight the outbreak, including special mosquito-eradication brigades.

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