'Knuckle fever' reaches Italy | Science News

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'Knuckle fever' reaches Italy

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2:59pm, October 23, 2007

From San Diego, at a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America

An exotic virus that debilitates victims with fevers and joint pain has spread from Africa and India to Italy, where it has caused at least 284 cases of illness.

The chikungunya-virus outbreak began in 2004 on Lamu, an island off the east coast of Africa, says Robert Breiman, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention station in Kisumu, Kenya. It soon spread to the nearby Comoro Islands, and "then the bottle really opened up" and the outbreak leaped to mainland Africa and to India.

Breiman and his team estimate that 75 percent of the residents of Lamu contracted the virus. Once the virus is established in an area, "it's almost impossible to escape," Breiman says. On the Comoro Islands, 215,000 people became infected. French authorities reported 266,000 cases on Reunion Island, off Madagascar. There, health officials attributed 255 deaths to chikungunya, alt

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