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Tanzania has confirmed 20 cases of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that has claimed three lives, in the southern region of Lindi.

Health minister Ummy Mwalimu said test results from samples of patients in Ruangwa were positive for the disease.

Last week, samples of people presenting with fever, nosebleeds, headache and body fatigue tested negative for Covid-19, Ebola and Marburg, the ministry said, calling for calm as it worked to detect it.

“I would like to inform the public that sample testing from patients has confirmed the outbreak is leptospirosis field fever or ‘homa ya Mgunda’ as it is known in Swahili,” said Ms Mwalimu on Monday.

According to the ministry, more than 20 cases have been reported, with three deaths. Two patients are currently hospitalised.

Ms Mwalimu said contact tracing was ongoing.

“Up to now, no other person among contacts has shown any symptoms of the disease,” she added.

What is leptospirosis?

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira.

The bacteria are transmitted from animals to humans through cuts or abrasions in the skin, nose, or eyes that come in contact with water or soil contaminated with the urine of infected animals. But, the disease cannot be transmitted from one human to another.

What are the symptoms?

In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases.

The most common symptoms are fever, headache, chills, cough, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, rash, red and irritated eyes, and jaundice.

In some cases, the disease can also lead to kidney or liver failure, meningitis and respiratory distress, which can turn fatal.

Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all, CDC says.

What is its incubation time?

A person is likely to present symptoms two days to four weeks after exposure. The illness usually begins abruptly with fever and other symptoms.

A patient with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhoea may recover for a time but become ill again.

In more severe cases, the illness lasts from a few days to three weeks or longer. Without treatment, recovery may take several months.

What is the treatment?

Mild cases of leptospirosis can be treated using prescribed antibiotics. Hospitalisation along with intravenous administration of antibiotics is required in severe cases. - BEATRICE MATERU, The EastAfrican

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