Health officials in the Dominican Republic have reported a record year of deaths due leptospirosis in 2016, according to a Noticias Sin report (computer translated).
Leptospirosis was the cause of 74 deaths in 2016, a year in which there were a total of 752 cases nationwide, according to the Epidemiological Bulletin of the Ministry of Health for the 51st week.
In 2015, health officials recorded 46 fatalities due to leptospirosis.
Epidemiologists said it is alarming that 10 percent of those affected with leptospirosis have died.
In the last four weeks alone, 19 people died of the disease, according to the Ministry of Health. Deaths rose in areas flooded by rains and overflowing rivers after Hurricane Matthew last October.
Leptospirosis is caused by a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Leptospira interrogans, is often referred to as “rat fever” due to the principal role rats play in spreading the disease (scientists refer this type of animal as a reservoir host). Other animals can also be important reservoirs of the disease.
These animals can spread the disease in their urine, contaminating water, soil, or food. People who live in close contact with domestic animals or wildlife are at higher risk for getting the disease.
People become infected by coming into contact with contaminated urine, water, food, or soil through breaks in the skin, eyes, mouth, or nose. Outbreaks of leptospirosis are usually caused by exposure to contaminated water, such as floodwaters. Person to person transmission is rare. Infected individuals initially experience fever, severe headache and muscle aches, abdominal pain, and occasionally a skin rash. Patients in the later stages of disease can suffer from jaundice, kidney failure, bleeding from the mouth or nose, bloody urine and can be fatal, especially without proper treatment.