Southern Brazil faces growing disease risk from floods

People in southern Brazil are facing an increasing risk of infectious diseases after severe flooding caused by heavy rains since late April.

Officials in the state of Rio Grande do Sul said 169 people have been confirmed dead and about 580,000 are displaced.

Hygiene conditions are deteriorating as many affected areas have been covered by floodwater for nearly one month.

State authorities say there has been a rapid increase in cases of leptospirosis, an infectious disease that causes high fever, headache and other symptoms. They say 141 infections and seven deaths had been confirmed as of Wednesday.

The patients were likely to have been infected through contact with contaminated water and soil while cleaning their homes and other flooded areas.

A doctor expressed concern about the outbreak of leptospirosis, saying he has asked other states for antibiotics and vaccines.

Officials are also worried about the spread of tetanus and influenza.