Virus may infect America, warns health group

March 4th, 2012 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 4 (IANS) An international agency working to improve health and living standards among the countries in the Americas has warned about the risk of the introduction of mosquito-borne chikungunya virus to the region from Africa and Asia.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador in central America, that the disease causes fever and severe pains in the joints that can last for months or years, the Prensa Latina news agency reported.

The group said the transmitting agents were the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

According to data from the PAHO from 2006 to 2010, there were at least 106 cases of chikungunya virus registered in the US in people returning to the country from abroad.

Though US health authorities at that time took measures to prevent the spread of the disease, the PAHO said still there were risks of the arrival of the virus to the Western Hemisphere through mosquitoes.

The chikungunya virus was first described by Marion Robinson and W.H.R. Lumsden, following an outbreak along the border between Tanzania and Mozambique in 1952. Since 1953, the virus has caused outbreaks in Africa and southeast Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

The PAHO is an international public health agency with more than 100 years of experience in working to improve health and living standards of the countries of the Americas. It serves as the specialised organisation for health of the Inter-American system. It also serves as the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO) and enjoys international recognition as part of the UN.

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