Mauritius 'safe' despite fever outbreak

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has sought to reassure tourists that it was safe to travel to the Indian Ocean region, despite a crippling mosquito-borne virus that has infected about 150,000 people.

    The island has 1298 confirmed cases of the Chikungunya fever

    Chikungunya fever, for which there is no cure or vaccine, has been spreading through Reunion, Mauritius and Seychelles since last month.

    Mauritius has so far had 1298 confirmed cases and 4706 suspected cases and authorities are awaiting test results after the death of a 33-year-old man last week.

    At the end of a three-day visit to Mauritius to assess efforts to control the outbreak, a team of WHO experts told a news conference that there was no reason for visitors to be concerned.

    Pierre Formenty, a spokessman, told a news conference that "there is no WHO restriction to travel to Mauritius and there have been no restrictions to travel to Reunion even when it was at peak of the epidemic".

    Mauritius relies heavily on tourism for foreign revenue and it generates about $800 million a year. 

    WHO officials visited Mauritius to
    assess efforts to control oubreak

    The government is investing in promoting its tourism industry to accelerate economic growth and offset a decline in its sugar and textile industries.

    The neighbouring French volcanic island of Reunion has reported 157,000 cases and 77 deaths linked to the virus. Tour operators say that some people have cancelled holidays booked on the island, but Mauritius says its bookings have not been affected.

    A ministry of tourism official said: "We actually saw an increase of 18% in tourist arrivals in January compared to last year so I don't believe tourism is at risk." 

    Seychelles, which reported at least 1000 cases in February, say numbers have declined with the end of heavy rains and there has been no impact on tourism.

    The disease, first recognised in Tanzania in 1952, is marked by high fever and severe rashes and can be extremely painful.

    The WHO does not believe that the tropical virus is fatal, but health experts say it can weaken the immune system, allowing other deadly diseases to set in.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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