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Viral Outbreak in Italy Traced Back to Visitor from India

Chikungunya virus, typically associated with tropical areas, caused one death in outbreak

FRIDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, which has caused outbreaks in recent years in tropical regions in Africa, islands in the Indian Ocean, and India, was the cause of an outbreak of febrile illness in northern Italy in the summer of 2007, according to research published in the Dec. 1 issue of The Lancet.

Giovanni Rezza, M.D., of the Istituto Superiore di Sanita in Rome, Italy, and colleagues analyzed data from an outbreak investigation in the Ravenna province in northeastern Italy, in which 205 people developed chikungunya virus (CHIKV), which causes fever and joint pain. Only one death was reported.

The index case was presumed to be an Indian man, hailing from a region affected by CHIKV epidemic, who visited one of the two villages where most of the early cases in the outbreak occurred. In addition, researchers found Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in the villages that were positive for CHIKV sequences. These mosquitoes were found in high density in the area when the index case arrived, which likely fueled the outbreak.

One implication of the spread of vector-borne diseases for high-income countries is "the need to maintain vector-control capabilities. Public-health agencies should: reduce or eradicate potential disease vectors (especially through community recruitment to eliminate their household water sources); monitor their location, abundance and vectorial capacity; assess the risk of disease introduction in light of foreign disease activity; and be able to investigate and control vectors in an emergency," write the authors of an accompanying commentary.

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