The Ministry of Health is reminding members of the public of the need for continued vigilance in the wake of increasing numbers of persons being affected by leptospirosis.
This advice comes from Senior Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Karen Springer, who noted that the figures for this year continue to climb. She confirmed a significant increase in the number of cases recorded over the past two months totalling 13.
“Six cases were recorded for November and seven for October. This represents a sharp increase since only six cases were recorded for the first nine months of this year. This brings the total number of cases for the year so far to 19,” said Dr. Springer.
Farmers, labourers, general workers, landscapers and other persons who work outdoors are especially vulnerable and should therefore not venture out without the necessary protective gear, such as gloves and boots.
The Senior Medical Officer of Health has advised that leptospirosis can be prevented through good sanitation and the use of boots and gloves, when working outdoors or with animals. “Individuals should protect themselves against leptospirosis as the leptospirochaete bacterium may be found in water. It lies dormant in the dry season and when rain falls it becomes activated.
“The disease can also be prevented if individuals avoid contact with the urine of infected animals and with any bodies of water that could be contaminated. Although rats and mice are known as the main carriers of leptospirosis, the disease is also associated with pigs, horses, cattle and dogs,” she said.
While the leptospirachaete can easily pass through cracks in the skin, she added that, “This bacterium may also enter the body through contact with the mouth, eyes or nose.”
The public is therefore encouraged to adhere to the principles of basic sanitation, to practise rodent control methods and pay special attention to the home environment to ensure that there is no rodent harbourage activity.
The symptoms of leptospirosis are high fever, chills, severe headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, and may also include jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea or a rash. The symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases such as dengue or influenza. It is therefore advisable to seek medical attention when such symptoms are present, so that treatment can be started early.
If the disease is not treated it could result in complications such as kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain or spinal cord), liver failure and respiratory distress.
During the last five years, the average number of confirmed cases stood at 18 and the average number of deaths at one.