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Leptospirosis breaks out in Taiwan's disaster areas

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – 105 residents of Wandan, Pingtung County were diagnosed with leptospirosis, reports said Wednesday as concern grows over contagious disease spreading through areas recently devastated by Typhoon Morakot and flooding.
The disease is usually transmitted to humans through water contaminated with animal urine coming into contact with wounds or eyes, and is relatively rare in humans. Early symptoms of the bacterial infection are similar to the flu, but can also include jaundice and diarrhea.
The first signs of fever in Wandan’s Wannei Village appeared on August 17, causing fears that the swine flu virus had reached the disaster areas. By August 24, more than 100 residents suffered high fevers, with 30 staying at hospitals.
Because the incubation period for leptospirosis is ten days, the outbreak should have already reached its climax , local health authorities said.
Millions of chickens and pigs died in the typhoon, while rescue workers are still hard at work looking for bodies and removing rubble. Cable stations showed pigs running loose on the streets and inside abandoned homes in Wannei.
Kaohsiung City and County both denied cholera had broken out. Two residents were tested for cholera on August 16, but the tests came back negative on August 22. The two patients returned home, authorities said.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan on Wednesday suggested evacuating more residents to speed cleanup efforts.
Liu was referring to Linbien Township, Pingtung County, where military and civilian workers have struggled for more than two weeks to drain all the floodwaters and remove mud from streets and homes.
Liu’s proposals met with a lukewarm reception from Linbien residents, cable stations reported.
President Ma Ying-jeou promised the operation would be completed by Saturday.
Circumstances in the disaster areas facilitated the outbreak of contagious diseases, as hundreds of people were living close together in dormitories with limited hygienic facilities, reports said.
In addition, there were frequent visits by rescue workers, military personnel and reporters which could bring diseases from outside the area.


Updated : 2021-04-16 23:00 GMT+08:00