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By Raijieli Kikau

SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 3, 2002 – Fiji Times)---An outbreak of leptospirosis has claimed four lives in two months, according to doctors.

Doctor Ami Chand, Medical Superintendent at Labasa Hospital, said they already had attended to 13 cases and the number is rising.

"It was during 1999 and 2001 when the outbreak was really bad in the north. And now we are seeing the trend again. And it could be very dangerous. So something has to be done about it,'' he said.

Leptospirosis is spread from animals to humans through direct contact with the contaminated urine of infected animals.

"The disease can be carried by both wild and domestic animals including pigs, cattle, dogs, cats, mongooses and rats,'' he explained.

"The infection occurs in the kidney and is passed through the urine.''

He said once the disease was detected, it is easy to cure it but it takes time for the patients to know if they are infected.

The symptoms include fever, headache, chills, flu and severe muscle pain in the calves and thighs, and bloodshot eyes.

He said patients were from the provinces of Macuata, Bua and Cakaudrove. It showed that the disease was spreading fast.

Of the 13 cases so far, four had serious kidney infections and three are currently at the Labasa hospital under strict medical supervision.

Dr. Chand said awareness programs by health inspectors regarding the disease would be of great help in controlling the malady.

Director of Primary Preventative Health Services Dr. Lepani Waqatakirewa said the disease was curable in the early stages but death and severe multi-organ diseases could develop if proper medical procedures were not followed.

He said the public should refrain from swimming or wading in contaminated water.

He added that the public should: cover all cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressing; thoroughly wash hands and arms in soapy water after handling live animals; and avoid hand to mouth, nose and eye contact while handling infected animals.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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