Persons who work outdoors, especially farmers are being warned to use protective gear at all times.
This advice has come from the Vector Control Unit of the Ministry of Health, following concerns that not enough people are paying attention to preventing the disease leptospirosis.
According to Senior Environmental Health Officer (Ag), Basil Weatherhead, “Leptospirosis can be prevented through good sanitation and the use of boots and gloves when working in hazardous conditions. Individuals should therefore protect themselves against leptospirosis as the leptospira organism can be found in water and enters the body through broken skin.”
He said that the hurricane season, especially the onset of torrential rain, fostered a congenial environment for individuals to contract the disease.
While urging the public to practise rodent control methods, Mr. Weatherhead noted that special attention should be paid to the home environment by ensuring that no rodents are present. He also stressed the need to adhere to the principles of basic sanitation.
The official noted that the disease could also be prevented if individuals avoided contact with the urine of infected animals and chose not to wade in water which was suspected to be contaminated.
He stressed that 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.
For instance, Mr. Weatherhead explained that leptospirosis occurs more often in people who work with such animals as dogs and cattle or who have a lot of contact with soil, water or vegetation that has been contaminated with the urine of infected animals.
Persons who notice a change in their health soon after contact with rodent infested areas are advised to seek medical attention immediately.
According to the Ministry of Health, within recent years the number of persons falling ill has declined, while those dying from the disease, remain negligible. In 2005, persons with the illness stood at 21 with there being no recorded deaths. In 2006, although only 15 persons contracted the disease there was one death reported. Figures for last year showed an increase, with 28 persons becoming ill and three persons dying.
The senior official noted that the figures were falling since 1996, when cases stood at 31 infected persons and six deaths.
Mr. Weatherhead pointed out that this downward trend could be maintained, once householders practised proper sanitation habits. He said so far this year, there have only been three cases of leptospirosis and no recorded deaths.