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Rome blood donations suspended due to chikungunya fever outbreak

ROME, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Italian Health Ministry Friday suspended blood donations in the seaside town of Anzio near Rome and in parts of the capital due to an outbreak of the chikungunya virus, which is spread by mosquito bites.

Also on Friday, four new cases of the acute viral infection were reported in the seaside town of Latina near Rome, according to local health officials.

These are in addition to the 27 cases reported on Thursday by health officials from the Lazio region where Anzio, Latina, and Rome are located.

Chikungunya symptoms include high fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and severe, sometimes disabling, joint pain.

In rare cases the virus can cause nerve damage in children, and it is sometimes fatal for the elderly if they already suffer from other diseases, according to Lazio health officials.

Chikungunya has a 3-12 day incubation period and cannot be spread from person to person. There is no cure for it, and the only way to prevent it is through disinfestations, using insect repellent, and removing any stagnant water in or near the house in which mosquitoes could lay their eggs, the health ministry said.

The first known chikungunya epidemic was recorded in Tanzania in 1952. The name derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning "to become contorted" and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The first European outbreak was in Italy's Emilia Romagna region in 2007, according to the WHO. The Italian Health Ministry has ordered emergency disinfestations in all affected communities.

At the local level, Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has been blamed for not authorizing routine city disinfestations in the spring, thus allowing the mosquitoes to proliferate during the summer.

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