Press Releases

Leptospirosis Press Release No.1 07th of February 2022

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The Ministry of Health would like to update the public on the current leptospirosis situation in Vanuatu. As of the 4th of February 2022, a total of eight (8) confirmed cases have been reported to the National Surveillance Unit: five (5) cases reported in Sanma Province, one (1) in Shefa Province, one (1) in Torba and one (1) in Tafea Province. No suspected or confirmed cases have been reported from Penama and Malampa Provinces.

These cases were reported after 81 leptospirosis rapid diagnostic tests were done at the Northern District Hospital and the Vila Central Hospital with results showing eight (8) positive and 73 negatives.

In Sanma Province, areas presented with more leptospirosis cases were Chapuis, Pump Station, and other areas with lower number of cases. Throughout Vanuatu, results show a higher incidence of cases in males at 88 per cent than females with 12 per cent.

 

Ministry of Health response:

Community awareness session are being conducted in the provinces to sensitize the population on the facts and transmission mode of leptospirosis from animal to human including personal knowledge on household prevention and protection measures. Environmental health assessments have been done with the Livestock and Water Department to confirm areas with possible exposure.

The Ministry of Health through the National Disease Surveillance Program is currently monitoring the situation across all the provinces.

 

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. Leptospirosis occurs in wild and domestic animals, mainly rats, dogs and pigs.

 

How it is transmitted?

Leptospirosis is transmitted to humans mainly through contact of broken skin with water or soil contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Infections may occur in people exposed to flood water/ puddles /waterfalls.

 

What are the symptoms?

The incubation period is from 4 to 19 days, usually 10 days. Only very rarely transmitted from person to person. It is much more likely that people from the same area become ill because they have been exposed to the same contaminated water source.

Leptospirosis is suspected when patients present with acute fever illness with headache AND muscle aches (often leg muscle), associated with ANY of the following symptoms / signs:

  • Swelling or blood in the white area of the eyes
  • No urine or very little urine production (kidney failure)
  • Jaundice
  • Cough, coughing up blood and breathlessness
  • Bleeding (from intestines or lungs)
  • Meningeal irritation (severe headache, not liking bright lights, neck stiffness)
  • Irregular heartbeats or heart failure
  • Skin Rash

 

How is leptospirosis treated?

Management of fever with paracetamol and fluid replacement (oral or intravenous) are recommended for any patient with fever. Antibiotics are recommended for all patients.

 

How is leptospirosis prevented?

Protective clothing (for example boots, gloves) should be worn, particularly if the skin is broken, when in contact with possibly infected soil or water (for example when working in a pig pen).The best way for people to prevent being infected with leptospirosis is to;

  • Treat water to make it safe to drink by boiling or using an appropriate chemical treatment
  • Cover cuts and abrasions with waterproof bandages or other coverings that seal out water
  • Do not wade, swim, bathe, submerse your head in or swallow floodwater or any fresh water source that may contain animal urine or be contaminated by floodwater runoff
  • Wear waterproof protective clothing, shoes or boots near floodwater or other water or soil
  • Prevent rodent infestation by keeping food, water and trash in closed containers, and trapping any rodents you see
  • Avoid eating food that rodents may have access to.
  • Wash hands before eating including wash well fruits and vegetable before usage

The Ministry of health emphasises the importance of early detection and proper clinical management of leptospirosis infection. Anyone who suspects that they have symptoms of leptospirosis infection should visit their nearest health facility immediately for accurate testing and follow up. This is the key message which everyone must understand and comply with.

Updates will be provided as the situation evolves.

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Contacts

Ministry of Health Office
Port-Vila

Phone: +(678) 22512 / +(678) 33080
VOIP: 2050

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