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Mosquito-borne virus spreads rapidly in Dominican Republic

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Health officials in the Dominican Republic say a mosquito-borne virus has spread widely since making its first appearance in the country last month.

The Health Ministry says it has documented about 3,500 suspected cases of chikungunya virus since it was first detected in March. Most cases have been near the capital, but Health Minister Freddy Hidalgo said Tuesday there have been some isolated cases in northern provinces.

Hidalgo spoke at the start of a two-day conference attended by representatives from Central American countries.

The chikungunya virus is most commonly found in Asia and Africa. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that since 2004, millions of cases have been reported, mostly in countries around the Indian Ocean and in Southeast Asia.

It was first detected in the Caribbean in December, on the French side of the island of St. Martin, and has spread to nearby islands.

Chikungunya is rarely fatal but it can cause high fever and intense joint and muscle pain. There is no vaccine.

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