KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian health officials announced plans Monday to tackle an outbreak of the rat-borne disease leptospirosis that has killed 10 people, forcing several parks to close.
Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said doctors had been ordered to inform the authorities of any suspected cases in order to identify the source of infections, the Star daily reported.
"When we are able to identify the source of the bacteria, then measures can be taken to control it, including cleaning up works... and closure of the affected places if necessary," he told the paper.
Health officials said the number of leptospirosis deaths has more than tripled in the past six years with 20 deaths in 2004, 62 deaths last year and 95 deaths between January 1 to August 15 this year.
The recent spate began in July when eight people, who were among a search and rescue group looking for a drowning victim in a recreational area in eastern Pahang state, died of the disease and another water-borne bacteria.
The latest victim was a 17-year-old boy who died on Saturday after going swimming in northern Kedah state.
Health authorities closed several riverside parks in the two states, the state news agency Bernama reported.
Leptospirosis, which produces fever, vomiting, severe muscle aches and headaches, is mostly spread through the urine of infected rats, which can contaminate water supplies.
Liow urged those visiting recreational areas like parks, waterfalls and rivers to keep their surroundings clean so as not to attract rats.
He said health authorities were organising a series of nationwide campaigns to educate the public on ways to prevent infection.
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