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Brazil floods: Waterborne disease outbreak kills four people

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Malu Cursino
  • Role, BBC News

Authorities in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul have confirmed 54 cases of waterborne leptospirosis after the region experienced unprecedented flooding during April and May.

Four others died after contracting the disease, which is spread through water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, such as rats.

Nearly 800 suspected cases are currently under investigation, the state health department said in a statement.

More than 165 people were killed in the floods and many others are still missing.

More than 2.3 million Brazilians in 469 municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul have been affected by what has been described as a “climate catastrophe” by the Brazilian government.

At least 581,000 people are displaced, while temporary housing has provided accommodation for 55,000 Gauchos (people from Rio Grande do Sul), according to local media.

Many cities in the state are still under water and cases of leptospirosis could increase.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, muscle pain and nausea followed by vomiting.

Image source, Getty Images

The state health department warned residents that floodwaters could mix with sewage, leading to the transmission of diseases like leptospirosis and hepatitis A.

Brazil is vaccinating its population against hepatitis A, but given the scale of the situation, it is advising people to avoid consuming water or food that could be contaminated by flood water.

Recovery and rescue efforts are underway and the federal government has allocated more than 1.8 billion reais (£275 million, $348 million) to support Rio Grande do Sul.

As floodwaters recede, the extent of the damage in Brazil’s southernmost state is becoming clearer. Those who were able to return home are trying to recover the goods that survived the floods.

Rio Grande do Sul has a population of more than 10 million inhabitants distributed in 497 municipalities. The state borders Uruguay and Argentina.

Image source, Getty Images

“Climate disaster”

Critics of Rio Grande do Sul’s government have accused the state governor of being complicit in the damage caused due to his stance on environmental policy.

In an article published on Folha, journalist Eleonora de Lucena wrote that Rio Grande do Sul’s right-wing leadership has led local politicians to cater to the interests of soy farmers and neglect their commitments to environmental protection .

Under the leadership of Governor Eduardo Leite, more than 400 changes were made to the state’s environmental laws, including a law allowing the construction of dams in ecologically protected areas.

But in an interview with BBC Brazil last week, Mr Leite defended his policy, adding that dams in protected areas would enable food production.

The floods are the result of intense and unprecedented rainfall in the region. But the collapse of a hydroelectric dam after days of heavy rain in early May exacerbated mass displacement.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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