Fri, 14 Feb 2003

Mystery disease affects 230 in Bandung area

Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

An unidentified disease has continued to spread in Bandung regency, Cikalongwetan district, affecting more than 230 residents in the villages of Mandalamukti and Ciptagumati.

According to data from the public health center in Cikalongwetan, the number of people affected by the disease, which is being called Chikungunya, has increased to 231 from 90 last December.

Sudradjat, a doctor, said on Thursday that the public health center, in cooperation with a medical team from the health office in Bandung, had given vitamin B1 shots to locals to try and stop the spread of the disease.

"We have set up several emergency medical posts in the two villages to provide 24-hour care for patients affected by the disease," he said, adding that the authorities were only now getting a handle on the problem because there was a delay in reporting the outbreak of the disease to the public health center and the local administration.

Sudradjat said the disease first emerged three months ago after several people who were bitten by aedes albopictus mosquitoes came down with influenza and demonstrated symptoms similar to those associated with dengue fever.

The sufferers also experienced debilitating pain in their bones, leaving them unable to walk, the doctor said.

"Many sufferers have been reluctant to visit a doctor or the public health center because, besides economic concerns, the pain only lasts between one and two weeks," he said.

Sudradjat said there had been no fatalities and the symptoms disappeared without medication after two weeks.

Nining, 21, who has been suffering symptoms of the disease for four days, said she had been reluctant to visit the public health center for fear of receiving a shot and the price of medicine.

"At first the symptoms are similar to dengue fever, but after several days Chikungunya sufferers cannot walk. But after one week, they recover without any medication," she said, adding that her parents had been affected by the disease but had already recovered.

The chief of the local health office, Nono Tjahyono, said his office, in cooperation with Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital in Jakarta, was studying the disease and would launch an anti-Chikungunya campaign in all of the villages in the regency.

"We have delivered blood samples from several patients for examination in Jakarta, to determine the kind of endemic we are dealing with and how the patients should be treated," he said.