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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 2, CMC – Barbadian health officials have issued a leprospirosis alert urging the public to wear adequate protective clothing when participating in outdoor work or recreational activities, such as gardening and construction. Last year, the island recorded three deaths from the 44 cases and so far this year, the number of people suffering from the disease has been put at 29. Senior Medical Officer of Health – North, Dr. Karen Springer, said the disease, which includes flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, nausea and vomiting, eye inflammation and muscle aches, could be contracted through contact with water, or damp soil or vegetation that is contaminated with the urine of infected animals. In more severe cases, the illness may result in liver damage and jaundice, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, kidney failure, and internal bleeding. The Ministry of Health said that people who are seriously ill with leptospirosis may be at risk of death and might need to be hospitalised. “The disease may however, be prevented by minimising contact with water, mud, vegetation and foods that might be contaminated with the urine of infected animals, especially rodents, since bacteria can also enter the body through broken skin and if the person swallows contaminated food or water. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria could reach all parts of the body and cause illness,” according to a government statement. It said that although rodents are the main carriers of leptospirosis in Barbados, the disease may also be transmitted by other animals which carry the leptospirosis organism, including pigs, horses, cattle and dogs.