ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 44

France helps in battle against chikungunya

Fight mosquitoes to keep deadly disease at bay, says French epidemiologist

By Esther Williams

Sri Lanka and France have shared their experiences in fighting the outbreak of chikungunya and will continue to co-operate with each other by exchange of experts and training.

The French experience of battling the disease was shared at the two-week training workshop, which ended on Friday, organised by the Health Ministry and the Medical Research Institute (MRI) in association with the World Health Organisation and four leading French health institutions - Pasteur Institute, French Institute of Public Health Surveillance (INVS), Pitie Salpetriere Hospital.

Chikungunya, the mosquito borne disease crippled the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion with over 47,500 new cases detected every week in 2005-2006.

The training programme on ‘Improvement of the Biological Diagnosis and the Surveillance Tools,’ dealt with global issues including virus transmitted by mosquitoes (chikungunya, dengue fever) and other transmitted diseases (seasonal flu, avian flu and leptospirosis) in the research process of which France is actively involved.

The event provided a vital opportunity for Frenchmen and Sri Lankans working in the field to share expertise on biological diagnosis and surveillance.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, epidemiologist Arnaud Tarantola of INVS who worked intensively during the chikungunya epidemic that hit La Reunion said, “The outbreak was very dramatic in terms of cases, people, and infrastructure and was a politically explosive issue.”

His team’s role was to help regional epidemiology units deal with the outbreak in terms of surveillance detecting cases mild and severe and those requiring hospitalisation. Dr. Tarantola agreed that there was a mutation of the chikungunya virus although he was unsure of the consequences.

At the round table discussion, Dr. Sunethra Gunasena from the Sri Lankan delegation made a presentation on the diagnosis of dengue virus infection showing that the outbreak of dengue fever had a predominant cardiac involvement. Dr. Paba Palihawadana on the other hand spoke of the recent Sri Lankan experience of chikungunya. Commending the collaboration between two countries to improve global security, WHO headquarters Medical Officer Dr. Senouci Kamel said he was glad to see such collaboration between two countries to improve global security. “We hope to change the way outbreaks are managed in future,” he said.

The underlying fact remains that if we want to fight chikungunya we have to fight mosquitoes. This will keep at bay chikungunya, dengue and malaria.

“It is a win-win situation if you manage to keep the mosquitoes away,” Dr. Tarantola said.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.