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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 January 2006, 01:57 GMT
French troops to help fight virus
The mosquito-borne virus is usually non-fatal
France is drafting 400 troops to help fight a mosquito-borne virus spreading on its Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

The troops, already stationed on the island, will join more than 1,500 people already engaged in the campaign to eradicate mosquitoes.

Some 30,000 islanders have been hit by the Chikungunya virus since March, and officials say thousands of new cases are emerging every week.

The virus causes muscle pain and fever but is usually not life-threatening.

There is no known vaccine to fight it.

Officials said the troops would be spraying the whole island against mosquitoes in the coming days.

The latest outbreak was first noticed there in February 2005.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has asked Health Minister Xavier Bertrand to fly to Reunion by Monday.

The start of the new school term there has been delayed to decontaminate school buildings.

The volcanic island - east of Madagascar - has a population of nearly 800,000.

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