Kerala state health officials issued a health advisory recently due to rising leptospirosis cases and deths in the southern state.
Health minister KK Shailaja said there are 123 suspected leptospirosis (rat fever) cases and 71 confirmed cases, including 19 fatalities (seven confirmed).
Despite the high numbers after recent floods, the health minister said that the public need not panic and that things are under control.
Devastating flooding has killed around 400 people in Kerala since June.
More than a million others were displaced, with many of them taking shelter in thousands of relief camps across the state.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonotic disease caused by the corkscrew shaped organism, Leptospira. It goes by several other names depending on the locale; mud fever, swamp fever, sugar cane and Fort Bragg fever, among others. It is a disease of both humans and animals.
The rat is the main host to Leptospira. However, other animals such as cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and wild animals can carry the bacterium.
People become infected by direct or indirect contact with the urine of these animals. Contact with urine-contaminated water is extremely important. Contaminated food and soil containing animal urine are other potential sources of infection.
The bacterium enters through contact with skin. Especially through cuts or breaks in the skin and through mucous membranes like the eyes.
Found worldwide, it was long considered an occupational disease (miners, farming, vets, and sugarcaneharvesting and sewer workers), it is increasingly associated with recreational water sports and camping.
Symptoms of leptospirosis, if present, appear in up to 4 weeks after exposure. Sometimes the person will show no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms.
According to the CDC, leptospirosis may occur in two phases; after the first phase, with fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea, the patient may recover for a time but become ill again. If a second phase occurs, it is more severe; the person may have kidney or liver failure (jaundice) or meningitis. This phase is also called Weil’s disease.
Leptospirosis is confirmed by laboratory testing of a blood or urine sample.
The infection can be treated with antibiotics (penicillin and doxycycline), especially if started early in the disease. For very ill patients, intensive care support and IV antibiotic may be necessary.