Leptospirosis cases spiral in flood-affected Kerala

New Delhi, 03 September 2018: Flood-hit Kerala reported yet another rat fever victim recently. Also known as leptospirosis, the disease has already claimed 15 lives so far and about 40 cases have been reported in the beginning of September. With two million people in the state having come into contact with flood waters, the need of the hour is to stress on preventive care.

Leptospirosis is a potential zoonosis with protean manifestations, caused by pathogenic spirochetes of the genus Leptospira. The organism infects a variety of wild and domestic mammals, especially rodents, cattle, swine, dogs, horses, sheep, and goats. Reservoir animals shed the organism in their urine intermittently or continuously throughout life, resulting in contamination of water.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Excess rain and the resultant flooding in Kerala has helped in facilitating the spread of the organism due to increase in the number of rodents. Rats shed large amounts of leptospires in their urine which mix with the flooded water. The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection. Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.”

Some symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash. The time between a person’s exposure to a contaminated source and becoming sick is 2 days to 4 weeks.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “The disease is diagnosed based on the patient’s history and physical examination. Patients with severe symptoms are diagnosed by proper medical tests. Early stage leptospirosis is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms resemble those of flu and other common infections. Leptospirosis can be treated with specific antibiotics as prescribed by the physician. There is no human vaccine widely available for the condition. Prevention includes avoiding potential sources of infection, and administration of doxycycline prophylaxis for individuals at high risk of exposure.”

Preventive health will also be discussed at the upcoming 25th MTNL Perfect Health Mela 2018 to be held between 24th and 28th October at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium, New Delhi.

Some tips from HCFI

  • Do not wade in dirty water
  • Cover any injuries properly. Opt for closed shoes and socks. This is more so in the case of people with diabetes.
  • Clean your feet well and dry them with a soft cotton towel. Leaving feet wet can lead to fungal infections as well.
  • Vaccinate your pet animals at the earliest as they could be potential carriers of the infection.
  • People who travel to areas with high risk of leptospirosis, should avoid swimming in fresh water ponds, drink only sealed water, clean and cover any open wounds.