Vanuatu reports dozens of leptospirosis cases


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The Vanuatu Ministry of Health has reported 32 cases of leptospirosis and one death since the beginning of the year. This prompted health officials to issue a red alert.

Image/M.Minderhoud via Wikimedia Commons

The outbreak was exacerbated by two tropical cyclones in March. From March 6 to 16, 10 new cases were confirmed clinically or through laboratory tests.

The majority of cases have been on the islands of Santo and Efate, with a few cases on Malikula, Pentecost, Malu and Erromango.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. People (and animals) can become infected when they are exposed to the urine of infected animals. They can also become infected from water, soil, or food contaminated with infected animal urine. Leptospirosis bacteria can enter the body through the skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).

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To reduce your individual risk, it is important to understand that exposure to animals, soil, mud, and flood waters during work or recreational activities increases your risk of infection.

Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), red eyes, and a rash. Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, shortness of breath, and even death.

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