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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Mystery virus hits Madagascar
Poor Madagascans
Madagascar's poverty was worsened by conflict

A total of 62 people have died in Madagascar following an outbreak of an unidentified viral infection.

The illness, which stuck the village of Ikongo in the central highlands province of Fianarantsoa, has all the symptoms of flu.

It has been present in the region for over a week.

Madagascar has just emerged from a violent power struggle which lasted seven months and inflicted long term damage upon the already shaky economy and government infrastructure.

The official casualty figures released by the ministry of health of 62 dead resulting from the viral illness is, say sources in the province of Fianarantsoa, not indicative of the real number of victims.

Unidentified illness

The problem is that many people in the region are using traditional methods to treat the virus, believing it to be common flu, instead of seeking medical attention in hospital.

Madagascan child
Many children are underweight and weak

More than 150 people have been successfully treated since the virus struck.

The ministry of health has despatched specialist delegations to the area to try to isolate the spread of the illness.

However, experts remain unsure about what it is exactly they are treating.

Following the seven-month political dispute and the ensuing economic disruption, great numbers of people can no longer afford to seek modern medical care.

Humanitarian aid experts say this will continue to have long-term health consequences for the island's population.


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29 Jul 02 | Business
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