How the disease became an epidemic
a recent study has thrown light on how the chikungunya virus attained epidemic proportions in the Indian Ocean region since September 2005. A team of researchers at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, has spotted several changes in the genetic makeup of the little-known virus that may have helped it proliferate.
Over the past year, outbreaks of the disease have been reported from several islands, with the worst affected being Reunion Island (of France) where almost one-third of the population has been infected. In India, too, a large number of cases have been reported from several states, the maximum -- 155,000 -- being from Karnataka.
The scientists say the magnitude of the epidemic in the Indian Ocean and the description of new clinical forms of the disease highlight "the critical lack of understanding of the physiology of the disease and the biology of the virus". Chikungunya virus spreads to humans through mosquito bites. Symptoms include inflammation of the joints, fever, headache and a skin rash. No specific treatment is available. Most patients get better after a few days, but the pain in the joints can persist.
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