- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (AP) - Officials in the Dominican Republic are warning people living near low-lying areas flooded by recent rainstorms to be on alert for two diseases that have already killed 53 people and sickened thousands.

Health Minister Bautista Rojas says communities hit hard by the July storms have seen an outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue fever as well as leptospirosis. It spreads through exposure to water contaminated with urine from infected animals.

Rojas said Tuesday that health workers will go to rural communities in the central Cibao valley. State laboratories have already provided free testing for the diseases near the capital, Santo Domingo.

Rojas says 26 people have died of dengue and 27 of leptospirosis.

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