Health officials in Saint Lucia, an island located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, have noted an increase of the bacterial infection, leptospirosis, and have advised the public.
Officials say that although increases in the number cases of leptospirosis is not unusual after periods of heavy rains or flooding, it remains an issue of concern to health authorities. A specific case count has not been released.
The Ministry of Health advises all to take the following measures to reduce the risk of becoming ill with Leptospirosis: wear protective clothing, shoes, gloves to avoid coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, soil, water source 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 opened wounds properly.
In addition, a Rodent Reduction Program has been established, which will be further enhance the response to the current increase in leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria found in some animals, which include rats, cattle, pigs, horses and dogs. Persons can become ill if they are in contact with the 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 can affect the liver causing jaundice (which is dark urine and the yellowing of the white part of the eye and the skin), and anaemia. 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.
This condition can be treated effectively with antibiotics if diagnosed on time. Seeking medical care early when these symptoms are noticed can prevent the disease from worsening. Persons at greatest risk of contracting 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.