PRESS RELEASE – AS of the last report dated November 1, 2017, two additional case of Leptospirosis have been confirmed. While this may suggest a decrease in the upward trend noted before, overall cases are still higher than that observed in the last three years, which is an issue of concern to the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria which can be found in some animals, including rats, cattle, pigs, horses and dogs. People can become ill if they are in contact with urine, water, food or soil through breaks in the skin, mouth, eyes or nose. Symptoms can range from a mild flu-like illness with high fever, chills, headache, muscle pains, red eye, sore throat and occasionally rash which may worsen with time.
In the more severe phase, the disease is characterised by anemia and can affect the liver, causing jaundice (the yellowing of the white part of the eye and the skin). If left untreated, the disease can affect the brain, kidneys, lungs, and other internal organs, causing multi-organ failure, resulting in death.
This condition can be treated effectively with antibiotics if diagnosed early. Seeking medical attention when these symptoms are noticed can prevent the disease from worsening.
People at greatest risk of getting Leptospirosis are farmers and agricultural workers, sanitation workers and sewer workers. However, anyone exposed to rat contaminated water and soil is also at risk of contracting the disease.
The Ministry of Health has an established Rodent Reduction Programme which will be further enhanced to respond to the current increase in Leptospirosis. The Ministry will also be working with a number of agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture, farmer organizations and local government, in order to heighten awareness of the disease to people most at risk of contracting the disease.
The Ministry of Health advises everyone to take the following measures to reduce the risk of becoming ill with Leptospirosis:
• Wear protective clothing, shoes, and gloves to avoid coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, soil, water or food;
• Avoid contact with surfaces and water sources that may be contaminated with rat urine;
• Keep your home and surroundings free of garbage;
• Avoid leaving food where rats can get to it;
• Keep food in covered containers;
• Cover any containers used to collect rainwater; and
• Cover open wounds properly, particularly when engaging in gardening, farming and other outdoor activities.
It is important to visit your nearest health facility if there is any suspicion you might have been exposed to Leptospirosis.
For further information, please contact the acting National Epidemiologist, Dr. Gemma Chery, at telephone numbers 468-5325 and 285-4773.