Waterborne disease outbreak kills four people

Getty Images People walk through a flooded street in the Chacara neighborhood in Eldorado do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on May 22, 2024.fake images

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

Four other people have died after contracting the disease, which is transmitted through water contaminated with urine from infected animals, such as rats.

Up to 800 suspected cases are currently being investigated, the state health department said in a statement.

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

More than 2.3 million Brazilians in 469 states have been affected by what the Brazilian government has called a “climate disaster.”

At least 581,000 people are displaced, while temporary accommodation has been able to house 55,000 gauchos (people from Rio Grande do Sul).

Many cities in the state are still underwater and the conditions could cause leptospirosis cases to increase.

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

Getty Images An aerial view shows flooded areas in the city of Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, on May 1, 2024.fake images
Reuters People walk in a flooded area in the Cavalhada neighborhood after heavy rains in Porto Alegre, Brazil, May 23, 2024.Reuters

The state health department has warned residents that flood water could mix with sewage, leading to the transmission of diseases such as leptospirosis and hepatitis A.

Brazil vaccinates its population against hepatitis A, but given the magnitude of this, it is advised to avoid consuming water or food that may be contaminated with flood water.

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

As flood waters recede, the extent of the damage becomes clearer. Those who were able to return to their homes are trying to rescue the belongings that withstood the floods.

Getty Images A resident sorts through damaged personal belongings in a home following historic flooding in Eldorado do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. fake images

‘Climate disaster’

Critics of the Rio Grande do Sul government have accused the state governor of being complicit in the harm caused by his stance on environmental policies.

In an article published in Folha, journalist Eleonora de Lucena wrote that Rio Grande do Sul’s right-wing leadership has meant that local politicians serve the interests of soybean producers and neglect environmental protection commitments.

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

But during an interview with BBC Brazil last weekLeite defended his policies, adding that dams in protected areas would allow food production.

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

Reuters People walk in a flooded area next to the Taquari River during heavy rains in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, May 2, 2024.Reuters

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