Georgia College grad students look to find cause of fatal bacteria in Puerto Rico

Students look for bacteria
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MILLEDGEVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – A Georgia College graduate student finds out why some Puerto Rican residents got sick and died.

The student makes her thesis about the bacteria, Leptospira.

Puerto Rico native Zamara Garcia Truitt, says as a child, she never heard of Leptospira.

“It’s neglected. One of the most neglected diseases in the tropics,” Truitt said.

This is why her thesis is on the bacteria. She hopes to find answers for people in Puerto Rico. Georgia College partnered with a University in Puerto Rico to have water samples sent over.

“Due to those flooding conditions, the bacteria were able to spread and was able to come in contact with humans and infect them,” she said.

Professor Dave Bachoon says that animals like rats, frogs, mongooses, cattle, and pigs carry the bacteria.

He says that during heavy rain or flooding water, plants and sewage systems fail. This forces people to use untreated water from creeks and rivers.

“If you were to eat any contaminated food, or drink contaminated water, or if you had cots, or even handling garbage you can pick up this pathogen,” he said.

According to Bachoon, symptoms are mistaken for the flu. Symptoms include fever, headaches, nausea, and diarrhea.

Bachoon says as global warming continues, there will be more intense hurricanes and rain in the Caribbean. As a result, there may be more cases of people being infected with the bacteria.

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Tanya comes all the way from Chicago, Illinois. She’s a city girl that’s excited to be a part of Middle Georgia’s community and tell your stories! She received a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Columbia College Chicago. She also spent a few semesters studying at San Diego State University. While in college, she interviewed Joan Rivers before she passed away, was on the red carpet for the movie premiere of “Chiraq” and also interned with ABC7’s investigative reporters and Bill Kurtis. Tanya spent nearly 2 years reporting in Billings, Montana where she covered a lot of politics and agriculture. In her spare time, Tanya is a sports fanatic, so even though the Chicago Bears and Bulls didn’t know how to win this season, she still roots for them. You can guarantee you’ll run into her at the gym every day. If you do, stop by and say hi! Share your stories with her and don’t be surprised if she’s hiding chocolate chip cookies in her gym bag.