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Leptospirosis in Fiji: 14 dead, 179 cases confirmed

Friday 18 February 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Leptospirosis in Fiji: 14 dead, 179 cases confirmed
Soldiers help clean up in the capital Suva. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

While Fijian health authorities are happy Covid-19 cases in the country are on the decline, they can't say the same for leptospirosis.

A six-year-old is among 14 people who have died from leptospirosis in Fiji this year.

So far, there are 179 cases of leptospirosis and the Government said it expects an increase in typhoid, dengue fever and leptospirosis cases.

Health Secretary Dr James Fong said this followed the recent heavy rains and flooding experienced around the country.

He said the remaining 13 deaths involved males aged between 16 and 35 years old.

Fiji recorded 28 new cases of Covid-19 in the community on Thursday - its lowest since this third wave began last November.

The head of Fiji's Medical Association Dr Basharat Munshi is urging the public to boil all drinking water and cover their hands and feet when out in the fields.

"It's an occupation hazard for farmers, dairy workers and abattoir workers so if you're a farmer, please wear gumboots and gloves where necessary," Dr Munshi said.

"If you have any cuts and scratches to cover them up when you go out into the fields."

Dr Munshi said climate-sensitive diseases such as leptospirosis, dengue fever and typhoid were prevalent during periods of heavy rain and flooding.

Dr Basharat Munshi.
Dr Basharat Munshi. Photo: Supplied

It was imperative that members of the public adhere to the health precautions to avoid contracting leptospirosis, Dr Munshi said.

"The symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, muscle pain, headache, red eyes, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or feeling weak.

"To prevent leptospirosis, people must avoid wading or swimming in flooded waters, wear shoes when walking outside, and keep all food and drink covered and away from rats."

Dr Fong said 65 of the latest leptospirosis cases were reported in the Central Division, three in the east, 38 in the north and 73 cases recorded in the west.

While leptospirosis case numbers were above expected numbers for this time of the year in the west and central divisions, Dr Fong said there was also an increasing trend noted in the north of the country.

An Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) has been deployed to the western interior of Fiji's main island Viti Levu to address the surge in leptospirosis cases there.

Another team, led by Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete is visiting communities on Kadavu Island in Fiji's east.

Soldiers clear rubbish during the LTDD campaign.
Soldiers clear rubbish during the LTDD campaign. Photo: Supplied/Fiji govt

Dr Fong said these areas were difficult to reach and at risk of a major outbreak of the disease.

"The hospital admission and deaths data indicate that most of the hospital admissions and deaths are in the Western Division," he said.

"There have been 14 deaths with 12 in the western division, one in the central division and one in the northern division," Dr Fong said.

"The majority of hospital admissions in the west are from Ba, Nadroga/Navosa, Rakiraki and some parts of Lautoka.

"The majority of admissions in the Central Division have been from Serua/Namosi, Wainibokasi and Tailevu."

Dr Fong said delays in accessing care had been noted to contribute significantly to those adverse outcomes.

In January last year, Fiji's Health Ministry announced a leptospirosis outbreak and 10 suspected fatalities.