(Caribbean News Now): BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- The Ministry of Health in Barbados has alerted members of the public about a spike in leptospirosis cases, detected last month. 

According to Senior Medical Officer of Health - North, Dr Karen Springer, five persons -- two females and three males -- contracted the severe bacterial infection in July, bringing the number of cases this year to 18. This included six hospitalisations but no deaths. During the period January to July 2011, 11 cases were confirmed.

Springer explained that 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, damp soil or vegetation contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Bacteria can also enter the body through broken skin and if the person swallows contaminated food or water. 

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