San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bacterial Outbreak Infects 1,600, Kills 9

President Daniel Ortega on Monday traveled to the northwestern department of Chinandega with a team of Cuban disease experts and government health officials to respond to a quickly spreading outbreak of a bacterial disease which – at press time – had affected 1,600 people and claimed 9 lives, mostly in the northwestern region of the country.

The outbreak of Leptospirosis, a rare and complicated bacterial disease that is spread through the urine of infected animals (most commonly rats, cats, dogs and other barnyard animals), causes symptoms similar to the flu.

In more serious cases, it can lead to meningitis, hemorrhaging or liver and kidney failure.

The bacteria is passed to humans through contact with open cuts or through contaminated water.

It can normally be treated with a simple antibiotic, if caught in time.

Guillermo González, Vice-Minister of Health, stressed that it is of dire importance for the government to inform the population about how the disease is spread to prevent a greater epidemic in the days to come. “Principally people who have some sort of laceration, or a cut on their hands or feet; remember that part of our population is accustomed to walking around barefoot or drinking still water, which, logically, because of the rains, has been contaminated and this is how the population is being infected,” González said.

The Ministry of Health this week mobilized a 10,000-member brigade to respond to the outbreak, which is being blamed on the poor sanitary conditions following weeks of flooding in the northern part of the country (NT, Oct. 26, 19).

Though most of the cases have been limited to the departments of Chinandega and León, the Ministry of Health reported over the weekend several additional cases in Estelí, Chontales, Granada, Managua and the North Atlantic Autonomous Region. González reported this week that there may also be an outbreak of dengue fever – a mosquito-borne illness that presents similar symptoms – in the same region of the country, also as a consequence of the recent heavy rains.

González said the Cuban delegation of disease experts will help the Nicaraguan medical teams to identify the exact type of bacteria that is infecting people, allowing the government to design a “much more precise” response action.


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