Thiruvananthapuram: The death toll due to leptospirosis, known as ‘rat fever’ is mounting in flood-hit Kerala, with two more people succumbing to the bacterial disease on Monday. This brings the total number of casualties due to the fever to nine in the past three days.
As many as 71 others were said to be infected with the disease in Kozhikode and Pathanamthitta districts.
Generally, this disease is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. It can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Leptospirosis cases occur around the monsoons but the risk of it spreading is high during floods.
Basically, people get the disease through direct contact with the urine of infected animals or through water, soil or food contaminated with their urine.
Earlier, the Kerala Government had sounded an alert across 13 of the 14 districts against rat fever. The state health department has also asked people to take precautions and preventive medicine as a precautionary measure.
Leptospirosis, if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications, including kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.
Health Minister K. K. Shailaja, said Kerala would be on high alert for the next three weeks. However, there is no need to panic as the high incidence is on account of the floods, she said.
Symptoms of leptospirosis in humans may include high fever, headache, muscle ache, vomiting, diarrohea, abdominal pain, jaundice, skin rash and redness in the eyes.
Leptospirosis is treated with antibiotics, including penicillin and doxycycline.
- Avoid direct contact with contaminated water or soil.
- Never drink water from any outdoor sources. Ensure that you drink only filtered and boiled water. Also, do not consume food that might have come into contact with infected animals.
- Avoid swimming, water skiing, sailing or fishing in water that might be contaminated with animal urine.
- Wash hands regularly using soap, water and disinfectant.
- Do not smoke, drink or eat when handling livestock.
- Wear protective clothing and footwear near floodwater or soil that may be contaminated with animal urine.
- Stay away from infected animals, especially rats and other rodents which are the main carriers of the bacteria.
- Take proper care of cuts or wounds. Cover them with waterproof bandages or other coverings that are resistant to water.