Since October, health officials on Trinidad and Tobago have reported a total of 15 cases and two fatalities at the San Fernando General Hospital prompting calls for the public to take measures to protect themselves from the potentially lethal bacterial infections.
The risk of the infectious disease Leptospirosis is especially high in flood situations, such as after a hurricane or heavy seasonal rains. Leptospirosis is spread by bacteria and, once diagnosed early, it can be treated. Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals (usually rodents, dogs, farm animals and horses). Animals and humans become infected by direct contact, by drinking or inhaling the infected urine, or water contaminated by urine.
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 can affect the liver causing jaundice (which is dark urine and the yellowing of the white part of the eye and the skin), and anemia. If left untreated the disease can affect organs such as the brain, kidneys, lungs, and other internal organs. In some instances, this may result in death.
- Avoid contact with animal urine, especially if you have cuts or abrasions of the skin.
- Avoid contact with potentially contaminated water (e.g. streams, rivers and ponds)
- If working in areas that may be prone to contamination, wear protective clothing such as boots, aprons, eye protection, or face masks.
- Consume only clean drinking water
- Inspect food carefully to determine if it may have come into contact with flood water. Discard open containers, packages and foods contained in bags, paper, cloth, fiber or cardboard boxes e.g. flour, cereal, rice even if the packages were sealed.
- Throw away fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat that may have come into contact with flood waters.
- Canned food items may be safe for consumption but persons are advised to remove labels and disinfect cans thoroughly with a bleach solution before opening.
- Visits to food premises in affected areas to guarantee that contaminated foods, especially meat, are not offered for sale to the public and are disposed of in a manner that prevents its re-entry into the market.
- Monitoring food preparation and processing facilities to ensure that contaminated raw materials are not used in food preparation/processing.
- Liaising closely with farmers and market vendors to ensure that appropriate health protocols are followed, including the disposal of affected crops, where necessary. (Green, leafy vegetable crops are especially susceptible to adverse effects of flood waters)
- Monitoring and reporting on overflowing privies, such as septic tank systems and pit latrines, to relevant authorities so that they may address the situation urgently
- Monitoring and reporting on the existence of carcasses of large animals to relevant authorities so that they may address the situation urgently
- Post flooding management by the application of bactericidal spray to the hard surfaces around homes and necessary adulticiding (chemical treatment for adult mosquitoes) and larval treatment as it relates to mosquitoes
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