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

Image/ M.Minderhoud via Wikimedia Commons

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

The majority of cases have been in Santo and Efate islands, with a few cases in Malekula, Pentecost, Malo and Erromango.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. People (and animals) can get infected when they are exposed to the urine of infected animals. They can also get infected from water, soil, or food contaminated with infected animal urine. Leptospirosis bacteria can enter the body through 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 floodwaters during work or recreational activities increases your risk of infection.

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