Farmers and those persons who work outdoors have been warned not to venture outside without protective gear, such as gloves and boots, even as the end of the rainy season is approaching.
This advice has come from the Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Karen Springer, in the wake of one death from leptospirosis reported so far for the year. She said that not enough people were paying attention to preventative aspects of the disease.
Concerns over leptospirosis also come against the backdrop that October has recorded the highest cases of the disease for the year – seven. This is regarded by the Health Ministry as significant since this number exceeds the total number of cases reported in any single month last year. A total of 13 cases have been reported so far for the year as compared with 18 for the same period last year.
Dr. Springer said, “Leptospirosis can be prevented through good sanitation and the use of boots and gloves when working in hazardous conditions. Individuals should protect themselves against leptospirosis as the leptospira organism can be found in water which can enter the body through broken skin.”
While urging the public to practise rodent control methods, Dr. Springer stressed that special attention should be paid to the home environment, “ensuring that there are no rodent activities or harbourages.” She also stressed the need to adhere to the principles of basic sanitation.
The disease can also be prevented if individuals avoid contact with the urine of infected animals and desist from wading in water, suspected to be contaminated. Although rats and mice are known as the main carriers of leptospirosis, the disease, which is caused by a bacterium, is also associated with other animals.
The senior health official explained that “leptospirosis occurs more often in people who work with animals such as dogs and cattle or who have a lot of contact with soil, water, vegetation or materials that have been contaminated with the urine of infected animals.”
Persons who become ill, soon after contact with rodent infested areas, have been advised to seek medical attention immediately.
In recent years, the number of persons falling ill from leptospirosis has fluctuated, while those dying from the disease remained low. In 2005, 21 cases of leptospirosis were documented and there were no deaths recorded; in 2006, 16 persons contracted the disease and two deaths were recorded. However, figures for last year showed an increase with 28 persons becoming ill and three recorded deaths.