Flood-hit Kerala on rat fever alert

Military Medical Services personnel sanitise a flood-hit school in Kochi on Friday. PTI

With three more deaths reported from leptospirosis (rat fever) in Kerala on Sunday, the State Health Department is stepping up preventive measures.

According to the Directorate of Health Services (DHS), between August 1 and September 2, 10 people were confirmed to have died from leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that spreads through water or soil contaminated by infected animals. Four of the 10 deaths were reported on Saturday and Sunday. In the two days, 73 confirmed cases have been reported.

The number of cases has been on the rise since last month’s flooding across the state. In August, 559 cases and 34 suspected deaths were reported; 229 cases and six deaths were confirmed. A total of 68 suspected cases and five suspected deaths were reported on Sunday. On Sunday, two deaths were reported from Kozhikode and one from Malappuram.

High fever, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain and vomiting are the symptoms of leptospirosis. It can affect kidneys, cause meningitis, liver failure and respiratory issues.

On Sunday, Health Minister K K Shailaja sought “extreme caution” against spreading of the disease. The Health Department issued a treatment protocol on Saturday and directed health workers and volunteers involved in post-flooding relief work to follow it. The workers have been directed to use masks, gloves and boots. Doxycycline (200 mg), a preventive medicine, has been made available for people involved in relief work and ongoing clean-up exercise in affected areas. Thousands of people are involved in cleaning drives in severely flooded areas including the Kuttanad region, as rehabilitation of the affected people reached its final phase.

The World Health Organisation says conditions leading to an increase of contaminated surface water or soil — rain, floods and other disasters — increase the risk of leptospirosis. “Feral and domestic animals constitute the reservoir of the agent, transmitted through contact of mucous membranes or (broken) skin with water (swimming or immersion), moist soil or vegetation contaminated with the urine of infected animals; occasional infection occurs through ingestion/inhalation of food/droplet aerosols of fluids contaminated by urine,” it says.

As on Saturday, 216 relief camps were functioning in Kerala with 19,524 inmates.

Alarm bell

Suspected cases: 719

Confirmed cases: 302

Suspected deaths: 46

Confirmed deaths: 10

(All figures since August 1)

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Flood-hit Kerala on rat fever alert

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