updated 10/29/2007 4:24:13 PM ET 2007-10-29T20:24:13

A waterborne disease spread through animal urine has killed nine people and sickened more than 1,600 in storm-stricken Nicaragua, health officials said Monday.

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The disease, leptospirosis, was spread by flooding caused by a month of intense rains and category-5 Hurricane Felix, which hit northeastern Nicaragua last month, President Daniel Ortega said Sunday.

As of midday Monday, nine people had died of the disease and 1,606 people had fallen ill, Lt. Col. Guillermo Lopez, deputy chief of the country’s Civil Defense Department, told reporters.

The highest number of cases, 745, appeared in the northwestern city of Somotillo, Lopez said.

The infectious disease is usually contracted through cuts in the skin. It is spread because the urine of rats, cows and pigs ends up in pools of standing water during stormy weather.

Symptoms include high fevers, vomiting, nosebleeds and intense muscle aches, especially in the knees and calves.

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