#HealthOfKerala: High alert on leptospirosis issued in Kerala

The Directorate of Health Services, (DHS) Kerala, has issued an alert informing a sudden increase of leptospirosis cases in Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Malapuram and Kannur district of the state

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The letter issued to government authority mentions that, ‘You may take this alert seriously and alert the entire clinical team of your district. Any fever with Myalgia (pain in a muscle) to be taken as leptospirosis and to be treated accordingly until further orders.’

The National Disease Control Program has also issued a letter to Kerala on what precautions should be taken to prevent deaths due to leptospirosis. Experts say that districts which are affected by flood water should take all the precautions.

Leptospirosis an infectious bacterial disease occurring in rodents, dogs, and other mammals, which can be transmitted to humans. It can pass from animals to humans when an unhealed break in the skin comes in contact with water or soil where animal urine is present.

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Several species of the Leptospira genus of bacteria cause leptospirosis. It can progress to conditions such as Weil’s disease or meningitis, which can be fatal.

The condition does not usually pass from one person to another.

The bacteria can enter the body through open wounds, the eyes, or mucous membranes. Animals that transmit the infection to humans include rats, skunks, opossums, foxes, and raccoons.

Leptospirosis is more common in tropical areas, where the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that it affects 10 or more people in every 100,000 each year.

In temperate climates, it probably affects between 0.1 and 1 per 100,000 people. In an epidemic, it can affect 100 or more in every 100,000 people.

Treatment

For mild cases, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics, such as doxycycline or penicillin.

Patients with severe leptospirosis will need to spend time in the hospital. They will receive antibiotics intravenously.

Depending on which organs leptospirosis affects, the individual may need a ventilator to help them breathe.

If it affects the kidneys, dialysis may be necessary.

Intravenous fluids can provide hydration and essential nutrients.

Hospital stays may range from a few weeks to several months. This mostly depends on how the patient responds to antibiotic treatment, and how severely the infection damages their organs.

During pregnancy, leptospirosis can affect the foetus. Anyone who has the infection during pregnancy will need to spend time in the hospital for monitoring.

Tips for avoiding leptospirosis include:

  • Controlling pests, especially rodents.
  • Washing hands with soap and water after handling animals and animal products.
  • Avoiding touching dead animals with bare hands.
  • Cleaning all wounds as soon as possible and covering them with waterproof dressings.
  • Wearing protective clothing at work, if appropriate.
  • Avoiding wading, swimming, or other contact with rivers, streams, and lake water, especially after flooding, or shower at once after exposure.
  • Avoid contact with or consuming anything that has been in contact with flood water.
  • Avoiding drinking water from rivers and lakes unless it has been boiled or chemically treated.
  • Ensuring that dogs have a vaccination against leptospirosis.