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SUVA, Fiji (, Dec. 29) - The Fiji Government has put aside F$50,000 to help the public health preventative services unit tackle leptospirosis, Health Minister Solomoni Naivalu said.

The action comes after a 17-year-old boy became the latest casualty of the sometimes fatal disease. Four others have been hospitalized on the country's second largest island, Vanua Levu.

Leptospirosis is an acute infectious disease common in tropical climates. Humans become infected through contact with water, food, or soil containing urine from infected animals.

It is an occupational hazard for people who work outdoors or with animals.

Naivalu emphasised the need to educate the public, especially farmers and people in rural areas, on preventative measures.

He said there is also a need to examine drinking water in some places on Vanua Levu, where piped water still does not exist.

About 40 people in Fiji's Northern Division are estimated to have died in the past few years from continuing problems with leptospirosis.

Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting. They may include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or a rash.

If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress.

December 30, 2002

PINA Nius 

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