Epidemic hits Reunion Island

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin visits Reunion in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, an island in the grip of a crippling epidemic.

A crippling disease in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion has affected 157,000 people, one in five of the population, in the past year, health officials say. One fifth of the population – have caught chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness.

The outbreak has hit tourism. Industry representatives say bookings are down 60% since December.

The disease has now been brought into France by people who visited Reunion.

Mr de Villepin’s trip comes amid claims his government’s response to the disease has been inadequate as it has focused on the bird flu crisis at home.