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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 13:07 GMT
French pledge for disease island
A soldier and city employees ask to enter a house with spray equipment in Saint Denis, the main city of Reunion
A mosquito eradication programme is under way
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has offered a package of aid to help Reunion island in the Indian Ocean fight a crippling epidemic.

Some 157,000 people - a fifth of the population - have caught chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness.

Mr de Villepin announced the 36m-euro ($42.8m) aid package during a trip to the island - which belongs to France.

His trip comes amid claims that France - facing bird flu at home - has been slow to respond to Reunion's crisis.

'Catastrophic'

The disease has now been brought into France by people who visited Reunion.

"We are totally committed to preventing [chikungunya], getting rid of mosquitoes and offer the medical services necessary to provide a solution for all those who are suffering," Mr de Villepin said after arriving in the island.

"All necessary measures will be implemented to overcome this crisis," he said.

The aid package includes:

  • 20m euros ($23.8m) for health response and prevention

  • 7m euros ($8.3m) for new measures to support health professionals together with the free distribution of mosquito repellent products

  • 9m euros ($10.7m) to finance research on chikungunya being carried out conducted by public institutions

  • 60m euros ($71.3m) to support the economic sector and companies affected as a result of the epidemic.
"Of course, we will also look to the future and ... provide economic solutions," Mr de Villepin said.

About 500 French troops have been deployed to help health workers on the island spray mosquito breeding areas.

Some 77 deaths on the French-governed island have been linked directly or indirectly to the disease.

Gelita Hoareau, a senator representing Reunion, described the situation as "catastrophic".

There have also been cases of chikungunya, Swahili for "that which bends up", in Mauritius, the Seychelles and Madagascar.

Symptoms include high fever, dehydration and severe pain - and there is no known cure.

Francois Bricaire, head of infectious diseases at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris, said about 30 cases had been found by his staff.

"We have people returning from La Reunion who have symptoms of chikungunya and their diagnoses have been confirmed," he told French radio.


BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the efforts being taken to contain the virus



SEE ALSO:
Children are 'mosquito magnets'
24 Nov 05 |  Health
How can malaria be controlled?
17 Nov 05 |  Africa
Regions and territories: Reunion
09 Nov 05 |  Country profiles


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