Kerala rat fever: Twelve people have died due to leptospirosis in the flood-wrecked state
Thiruvananthapuram: In the aftermath of the floods in Kerala, a waterborne disease known leptospirosis or 'rat fever' has killed 12 people since August. Leptospirosis is transmitted in water containing infected urine from rodents and other animals. Rat fever rarely spreads from person to person and can be treated with common antibiotics. Kerala sees leptospirosis cases every monsoon as paddy fields fill with water, increasing the chance of infection for farmers, especially through wounds such as cuts. Doctors are continuing to dispense preventive medicine in the form of tablets which need to be taken once a week for a month.
Five things to know about leptospirosis or rat fever in Kerala:
Since August, 372 confirmed cases of rat fever have been reported from across Kerala. Health Minister KK Shailaja said those engaged in cleaning operations should take the antibiotic doxycycline and not go for self-medication if they caught fever.
Of particular concern, however, is that some of the victims did not have usual symptoms such as mild jaundice, blood in urine or bleeding spots on the skin, Reuters reporters, quoting Mohammed Javeed, internal medicine specialist at a private hospital in the southern state.
People can get infected through contact with water, food or soil that contains urine from infected animals. Periods of heavy rain followed by days of little or no rain seemed to aggravate leptospirosis cases in Kerala, medical researchers say.
The bacteria enters the body through cracks or broken skin on the feet. Normally, it causes headache, muscle pain, jaundice, diarrhoea. Some of the symptoms may be mistaken for other diseases.
A maximum number of cases have been reported in Kozhikode, where a special isolation ward has been set up at the Kozhikode Medical College hospital.