Viral fever sweeps Jaffna, northeast

[TamilNet, Monday, 27 November 2006, 01:16 GMT]
Viral fever, suspected to be Chikungunya, is spreading rapidly amongst people in Jaffna, medical experts said Sunday. “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," Dr. A. Ketheeswaran, director of provincial health services there, told Reuters. The disease has been confirmed spreading rapidly in Kalmunai, Mannar, Batticaloa, Puttalam and parts of Colombo.

Food and medical supplies are in short supply in the northern peninsula, which remains cut off with the government refusing to open the A9 highway which it closed during heavy fighting in August.

Jaffna residents told Reuters doctors had recommended paracetamol as a fever preventive, but most shops had run out.

An epidemic of the mosquito-borne Chikungunya viral fever has been confirmed elsewhere in the island, a top health official told Reuters Saturday.

Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe, director of the state Epidemiology Department, said pockets of the fever had been detected in Sri Lanka's northwest, south and east, but could not say how many cases had been reported.

"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."

Abeysinghe said he believed up to 60 percent of reported fever cases were due to Chikungunya.

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

However laboratories had yet to confirm whether an outbreak of viral fever in the northern Jaffna peninsula, cut off from the rest of the country for months was Chikungunya as suspected.

The outbreak comes as Sri Lanka also grapples with a sharp increase in dengue fever cases as monsoon rains create breeding conditions for mosquitoes which carry the diseases, Reuters reported.

Symptoms of Chikungunya include high fever, joint and muscular pain, severe headaches, body aches and a rash similar to that seen in dengue patients. While the disease is painful, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says no deaths from Chikungunya have been documented in scientific literature.

Abeysinghe said it was very unlikely that Chikungunya caused the death on the peninsula of a Tamil woman suffering from viral fever on Friday.

"It is very unlikely to be (due to Chikungunya). There may be a lot of other disease conditions associated with these people who are reported to have died due to Chikungunya," he said.

Chikungunya, Swahili for "that which bends up", was first isolated in the blood of a febrile patient in Tanzania in 1953, the CDC said.

 

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