New flu strain spreading fast in Burma

A mosquito-borne virus with symptoms similar to dengue fever is spreading rapidly in Burma, according to doctors who asserted however that it has a low fatality rate.

The Chikungunya virus only became commonplace in Burma in mid-2009, although cases were reported as far back as 1975. It comes as doctors warn of a new wave of the AH1N1 and AH5N1 viruses in Burma that have struck more than 60 people in the past fortnight.

“[Chikungunya] begins like a normal flu with symptoms such as aches and pains, especially in the joints,” a specialist doctor in Rangoon. “The joint pain can be so severe that elderly patients may be unable to walk.”

Although the flu has strong symptoms, it has low fatality rate, particularly if the patient receives proper treatment at inception, the doctor said.

“Personal hygiene is important for flu diseases. Wash hands properly and avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Chikungunya is mainly contracted by mosquitoes,” he said.

Rangoon has seen a reemergence of the AH1N1, or ‘swine flu’, virus in recent weeks, with more than 60 people confirmed as carrying the disease. Burma’s secretive capital of Naypyidaw, populated mainly by government staff, has also been affected by the fresh outbreak.

Meanwhile, around 2500 chickens were recently culled in Rangoon following an outbreak of the A/H5N1, or ‘bird flu’ virus.

Health awareness remains low in Burma, with Rangoon residents earlier this month complaining that locals were failing to follow proper procedures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Burmese government has also been heavily criticized for its low spending on healthcare; around $US43 per person per year, according to the World Health Organisation.


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